Darwin Awards


        You all know about the Darwin Awards - It's an annual honor
given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by
killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way The 1995
winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled
over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
        In 1996 the winner was an air force sergeant who attached a jet
engine (JATO) unit to his car and crashed into a cliff several hundred
feet above the road.
       And now, the 1997 winner:  Larry Waters of Los Angeles-one of the
few Darwin winners to survive his award-winning accomplishment. Larry's
boyhood dream was to fly.  When he graduated from high school, he
joined the Air Force in hopes of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, poor
eyesight disqualified him.  When he was finally discharged, he had to
satisfy himself with watching jets fly over his backyard.
        One day, Larry, had a bright idea.  He decided to fly.  He went
to the local Army-Navy surplus store and purchased 45 weather balloons
and several tanks of helium.  The weather balloons, when fully
inflated, would measure more than four feet across. Back home, Larry
securely strapped the balloons to his sturdy lawn chair.  He anchored
the chair to the bumper of his jeep and inflated the balloons with the
helium. He climbed on for a test while it was still only a few feet
above the ground.
        Satisfied it would work, Larry packed several sandwiches and a
six-pack of Miller Lite, loaded his pellet gun-figuring he could pop a
few balloons when it was time to descend-and went back to the floating
lawn chair.  He tied himself in along with his pellet gun and
provisions. Larry's plan was to lazily float up to a height of about 
30 feet above his back yard after severing the anchor and in a few
hours come back down.
        Things didn't quite work out that way. When he cut the cord
anchoring the lawn chair to his jeep, he didn't float lazily up to 30
or so feet. Instead  he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a
cannon. He didn't level of at 30 feet, nor did he level off at 100
feet.  After climbing and climbing, he leveled off at 11,000 feet.  At
that height he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he
unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble.  So he stayed
there, drifting, cold and frightened, for more than 14 hours.
Then he really got in trouble.
        He found himself drifting into the primary approach corridor of
Los Angeles International Airport.
        A United pilot first spotted Larry.  He radioed the tower and
described passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun.  Radar confirmed
the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above the airport.  LAX
emergency procedures swung into full alert and a helicopter
was dispatched to investigate.
        LAX is right on the ocean.  Night was falling and the offshore
breeze began to flow.  It carried Larry out to sea with the helicopter
in hot pursuit.
        Several miles out, the helicopter caught up with Larry. Once
the crew determined that Larry was not dangerous, they attempted to
close in for a rescue but the draft from the blades would push Larry away
whenever they neared.
        Finally, the helicopter ascended to a position several hundred
feet above Larry and lowered a rescue line. Larry snagged the line and
was hauled back to shore.  The difficult maneuver was flawlessly
executed by the helicopter crew.
        As soon as Larry was hauled to earth, he was arrested by waiting
members of the LAPD for violating LAX airspace. As he was led away in
handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked why
he had done it.  Larry stopped, turned and replied nonchalantly,

                 "A man can't just sit around."