Tag Archives: Accident

MOUNT EVEREST — WORLD’S HIGHEST AND MOST DEADLY OPEN GRAVEYARD

Mount Everest is the world’s tallest peak. At 29,029 feet—8,848 meters—Everest looms in the Himalayan sky at the border of Tibet and Nepal. Its massive height makes Everest the holy grail of mountaineering. Since conquered by humans in 1953, Mount Everest has been summited over 7,000 times by nearly 4,000 adventurers. But 292 died during this treacherous climb and 200 of their bodies can’t be recovered. They still remain—lying open on the rocks, ice and snow of this high, deadly graveyard.

Most climbers killed on Mount Everest perish in the Death Zone. It’s that dangerous place in the stratosphere above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet) where the air is so thin that oxygen levels are insufficient to support human life. In the Death Zone, there’s less than one-third of life-sustaining oxygen than at sea level. Human beings simply aren’t designed to go where an Airbus A380 cruises. That prolonged oxygen deficiency quickly guarantees death.

Every mountaineer prepares for high-altitude climbs knowing the perils associated with a lack of oxygen. But they still go there. We’ll discuss their motivation but first, let’s examine what physiologically happens when a climber suffers Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Several things occur.

Without sufficient oxygen, your lungs can’t oxygenate red blood cells. That’s vital for delivering hemoglobin-rich blood through pulmonary and tissue capillaries. This supports mitochondria in your cells. Without oxygenated blood, your cells slowly die and complications set in. You’ll develop High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) as well as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Your lungs and brain will bleed and fill with fluid. It’s like suffocating and suffering a traumatic brain injury at the same time.

Some climbers experience HAPE and HACE quickly. In others, it comes on slowly. But the symptoms and effects are the same with all. First to come are a shortage of breath accompanied by nausea and a headache. Vision blurs. Judgment is impaired. Extremities become cold and painful. Confusion and disorientation follow. Finally, the climber becomes exhausted and lays down to die.

Although HACE and HAPE are primary contributors to death, the actual mechanism is the cessation of brain function due to cerebral hemorrhage or cardiac arrest. It might be a chicken or egg situation but one thing’s for sure—AMS is impossible to treat without restoring oxygen. That means taking the ill climber to lower elevations or supplying them with an artificial oxygen supply.

This is far more difficult than it sounds. The Death Zone on Everest sits in that 2,782 foot (848 meters) range between Camp IV—the last point of human habitation—and the summit. In the Death Zone, you’re on your own if something goes wrong. There’s simply no way to pack an unconscious or disoriented climber down. It’s not at all practical to rescue them with auxiliary oxygen. That’s why nearly all the deaths occur in that small stretch on that big mountain. And that’s why their bodies stay exposed in that deadly zone.

There are so many open dead bodies in the high reaches of Mount Everest—they’ve taken on names of their own. Ghoulishly, active climbers pass by frozen and mummified corpses of fallen comrades. They step around them and over them in tight places like the Hillary Step and the Lhotse face. They look down on the open graveyard called Rainbow Valley named for brightly-colored mountaineering suits still cladding dozens of dead strewn about the crevasse.

Certain bodies are assigned names—gruesome as it seems. Green Boots is a landmark. He’s called that because of neon green climbing boots still on his outstretched feet while the rest of him lays frozen in the fetal position under a limestone outcrop. The area is so narrow anyone summiting Everest on the northeast route must step over his green boots on their way up. And on their way down.

Sitting Man is another famous corpse. There’s a sad story behind him. This unfortunate soul fell ill to AMS after courageously making the top. On his way down, this British climber progressively fell into the fate of HACE and HAPE. He was with fellow climbers who left him alone to succumb from a lack of oxygen and exposure to elements. Mountaineers from other international parties passed up and down beside Sitting Man. Everyone saw this man sitting in peril as he slowly passed on. But no one assisted because on Everest—in the Death Zone—you’re on your own when something goes wrong.

A woman climber from America became known as Sleeping Beauty from her immortal climbing accident. She’d separated from her climbing partner during a descent in bad weather. Disoriented, she stopped in the Death Zone, waiting too long. Her body stays stretched on her back alongside the trail where her brown hair waves in the wind and her lifeless eyes stare openly up at the heavens.

The most famous dead body still lying open in Everest’s lofty graveyard is George Mallory. He’s been there since 1924 when Mallory and Andrew Irvine died in the Death Zone. History records that Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, are officially credited with being the first people to reach Everest’s summit in 1953 but there’s good reason to believe that 29 years earlier, Mallory and Irvine beat them to it.

Unfortunately, neither Irvine nor Mallory returned to tell the tale. They stayed near the summit and perished into eternity until one day in 1999, a group of experienced mountain adventurers stumbled upon George Mallory’s mummified cadaver lying face down on an open rock slide near the Death Zone. It appears he fell during his descent. Mallory was still in recognizable condition and his effects were mostly intact. His camera was never found. That might have contained confirming summit photos but something else was missing. Mallory promised he’d leave his wife’s photo on top of Mount Everest. His wallet was in his pocket and contained all documents except for the photo of his wife.

Since Hillary and Norgay summited in 1953, Everest has been a Mecca for mountaineers. There is so much demand for climbing positions that the governments of China (representing Tibet) and Nepal restrict permits. Still, there’s an overcrowding of space in this lucrative business. Climbers come from all over the world to compete for conditions on Mount Everest. And yearly, about 7.6 percent of them die. That figure grows each year.

Although most Everest climbing deaths happen in the Death Zone, there are many fatal accidents in the lower reaches. It’s partly due that assaults on Everest normally take place in 5 stages. This is a proven strategy. Practically every guided group follows this pattern.

  • Stage 1 is Basecamp. It’s at 5,270 meters (17,290 feet) and groups spend days if not weeks here preparing to ascend. Part of the reason is to acclimatize their bodies to compensate for the lower oxygen levels already found at this height. Acclimatization is hugely effective in delaying the effects of acute mountain sickness.
  • Stage 2 reaches Camp I. This elevation is 6,035 meters (19,799 feet). Climbers sometimes spend a few days further acclimatizing at Camp I before pushing on.
  • Stage 3 is called Camp II. Now they’re at 6,474 meters (21,240 feet) where the air is really starting to thin. Most climbers bivouac overnight and move up.
  • Stage 4 is Camp III at 7,158 meters (23,484 feet). There’s no time to waste in this oxygen depleted place. It’s a spot to rest, eat and hydrate.
  • Stage 5 is the last stop before summiting. Camp IV is at 7906 meters (25,938 feet). It’s just 94 meters (309 feet) short of the Death Zone. Here climbers spend little time as possible. They’re waiting for a weather or time window—making a break for the top.

 

Descending Everest doesn’t take the same stops. Depending on climate conditions as well as the climber’s physical state, they make multiple descent camps in one day. But descending has problems with pressurization. Descents made too fast brings on physical symptoms similar to acute mountain sickness. Quick, uncontrolled descents cause bad judgment leading to accidental death.

Despite the perils of AMS, HACE and HAPE, these contributors only account for a small amount of direct causes of death on Mount Everest. Statistics indicate accidents are by far the leading cause of Everest’s climbing deaths.

  • 29 percent are due to avalanches.
  • 27 percent are other causes like wind shear and equipment failure.
  • 23 percent are from falls.
  • 11 percent are the result of exposure and freezing.
  • 10 percent are directly related to acute mountain sickness.

So with the high odds of being killed on Mount Everest and bodies being left exposed in this high and open graveyard, why do so many adventurers want to risk their lives taking chances in the Death Zone?

That’s tough to answer. Each climber has personal reasons. Some are natural risk takers and thrill seekers. They want to push their envelope. For some, it’s all about ego and bragging rights. Some might be naïve. They simply don’t know what they’re getting into. If you have the money, you can buy a ticket up Everest.

Some dedicated climbers are motivated by business. Local Sherpas depend on guiding novice Everest guests. They’re well-paid, their local economy thrives on the mountain and they’ve been doing it for years. That’s why the greatest percentage—by far—of victim nationality is Nepalese. Most of them die in accidents, not AMS, as their physiology makes them much better suited to functioning in high-altitude environments.

Then some mountaineers are motivated by a macabre sense of brushing the face of death. They may have personal fears to conquer—something to prove to themselves or others. Perhaps they don’t think it’ll happen to them. Being surrounded by danger is a fix. It’s something an adrenaline junkie craves. Maybe for a few, they enjoy being suicidal. Climbing Everest is like loading one round in a revolver, spinning the cylinder, putting the barrel in your mouth and pulling the trigger. If you survive, then climbing Mount Everest was probably a good idea.

But maybe the real reason why people climb mountains like Everest was best summed by George Mallory himself. Asked why he wanted to do it, Mallory said, “Because it’s there.”

WAS MARILYN MONROE MURDERED?

A1No movie star lived on after death like Marilyn Monroe. She was far more than a bleached-blonde bombshell with a voluptuous frame and a lusty voice—she intuitively knew her craft. Born in poverty as Norma Jean Mortenson (aka Baker) to a mentally unstable mother, Marilyn Monroe rose to Hollywood glamor, fame, and idolization beyond what few ever reached. Tragically, by the time she died at age thirty-six, her performing career had spiraled into the same abyss her personal relationships and head space were already in.

MM10Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Beverly Hills bed at 3 a.m. on Sunday, August 5, 1962. The scene suggested nothing suspicious—no foul play, that is—and the toxicology results from her autopsy proved she’d succumbed to a lethal dose of prescription drugs. The coroner ruled her death as “probable suicide” but, like the deaths of other uber-celebrities, many mumbled murder. Monroe’s death was reinvestigated in 1992 by the Los Angeles District Attorney who came to the same conclusion—“probable suicide”.

In today’s coroner-speak, “probable” is not in the official vocabulary. Neither is “possibly”. Everywhere in the civilized world, coroners are mandated by legislation to rule a manner of death as being in one of five categories: natural, homicide, accidental, suicide, or undetermined. Now, fifty-four years later, an impartial look at Monroe’s case facts indicate her manner of death should not be ruled as a suicide.

But was Marilyn Munroe actually murdered?

A7On the day of her death, Marilyn Monroe was in the company of many people, none of who reported any immediately implied threat or perceived action from Monroe that suggested an imminent danger of suicide, nor any behavior that was outside of her already troubled mental state of manic highs and depressive lows. She’d a history of emotional instability that, today, would likely be classified as Bipolar II Disorder and she was under the continual care of a general physician and a psychiatrist. Monroe was no stranger to prescription pharmaceuticals, specifically anti-depressants and sleeping pills, but she was a relatively light alcohol drinker.

Marilyn Monroe had a difficult year in 1961. She worked very little due to health issues. Besides her emotional imbalance and substance dependency, she underwent surgery for endometriosis (uterus ailment) and a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal), then suffered a painful attack of sinusitis. Her stress level soared from a lawsuit with 20th Century Fox where they sued Monroe for breach of contract—her erratic behavior led to delays in filming, disputes with cast and crew, then finally a stop of production.

A14On Saturday morning, August 4, Marilyn Monroe met with her official photographer and discussed an upcoming Playboy deal, then kept a massage appointment, a meeting with her publicist, talked with friends on the phone, and signed for deliveries for her house renovation. She was visited by her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, in the late afternoon for a scheduled therapy session. Greenson left around 7 p.m. and reported no alarming behavior, however he ensured that Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, would be staying overnight.

Marilyn Monroe retired to her bedroom around 8 p.m. The last person to have contact with Monroe was actor Peter Lawford who invited her to a Hollywood party. He reported that in their phone conversation Monroe sounded tired—sleepy—as under the influence of drugs. After their call, Lawford became alarmed and phoned back to the house where he got Murray. She assured him everything was fine with Monroe.

A22At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, Eunice Murray woke and noticed light coming from under Monroe’s bedroom door. Sensing something not right, Murray tapped on the door. There was no response so she tried the handle and found it locked, which she stated was unusual.

Now alarmed, Murray phoned Dr. Greenson who instructed her to go outside and look through the bedroom window. She did and observed Marilyn Monroe lying facedown on the bed, covered in a sheet, and clutching a telephone receiver in her right hand.

Greenson arrived at approximately 3:20 a.m., broke the window with a fireplace poker, and climbed in. Immediately he could tell Monroe had been dead for some time and it was pointless to call an ambulance or attempt resuscitation. Greenson phoned Monroe’s physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, who arrived at around 3:50 a.m. Engelberg examined Monroe by removing the phone receiver and rolling her over, officially pronouncing death. At 4:25 a.m. they notified the LAPD.

MM2The attending detective agreed with the two doctors that there was nothing to indicate foul play and the death was most likely a drug overdose. The detective photographed the scene and recorded the “pill count” of the pharmaceutical vials on Monroe’s nightstand. Dr. Engelberg noted a vial containing twenty-five capsules of the barbiturate Nembutal that he’d prescribed two days earlier was empty. Vials with other prescriptions appeared in order including one containing the sleeping sedative Chloral Hydrate.

Marilyn Monroe was autopsied on the morning of August 6 by pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi who would later be known as “Coroner To The Stars” for his many postmortem exams on celebrities. His original autopsy report is on the public record and can be downloaded. Click Here.

A20Noguchi is very clear in his report and many subsequent interviews that he found no evidence of physical trauma—specifically needle marks—on Monroe’s body. Based on his observations and those of Drs. Greenson and Engelberg regarding Monroe’s rigor, livor, algor, and palor mortis conditions, he felt reasonable to estimate her time of death between 8 and no later than 10 p.m. the previous night. Noguchi found no natural cause of death and waited for the toxicology report before forming his final conclusions.

The tox screen was done by the LA County Coroner’s laboratory and released on August 13. The results concluded  Monroe’s blood contained 4.5 milligrams (percent) of Nembutal and 8.0 milligrams (percent) of Chloral Hydrate. Her liver contained 13.0 milligrams (percent) of Pentobarbital. Blood ethanol (alcohol) was absent.

MM8

 

Noguchi was satisfied the combination of Nembutal and Chloral Hydrate levels in Monroe was sufficiently high to cause her death through respiratory and central nervous system failure and he knew the Pentobarbital stored in her liver was simply indicative of someone who had long exposure to barbiturates and developed a “tolerance”. Noguchi certified the cause as “acute barbiturate poisoning due to ingestion of overdose” but he was reluctant to rule the classification as “suicide”. Though Noguchi was certain no evidence existed to suggest the death was an intentional homicide, he was uncomfortable with there being no clear evidence that Monroe intended to take her own life.

There were no immediate threats, no suicide note, no warning behavior, and not all the Chloral Hydrate pills were consumed, not like the Nembutal.

A23It might be an accidental OD, Noguchi thought, and he was troubled by the fact Monroe had been prescribed the amounts of Nembutal and Chloral Hydrate at the same time—her physician had to have known they’d be lethal if mixed a large quantity.

Noguchi was under pressure—political pressure, if you will—from the elected Chief Coroner of Los Angeles County to shut down media speculation that there might be more to Monroe’s death than a sad case of a despondent star intentionally extinguishing her light. The Chief and Noguchi reached a temporary compromise that they’d say Monroe’s death was a “probable” suicide.

A21Noguchi didn’t go so far as to insinuate negligence by Monroe’s caregivers might be the smoking gun, yet he requested a “psychological autopsy” to investigate Marilyn Monroe’s mental state leading to her death. Without clear evidence of an intentional suicide, the pattern of Monroe’s behavior was crucial in corroborating a suicide rule.

This statement was issued by LA County Chief Coroner Theodore J. Curphey. It’s an addendum to Noguchi’s final autopsy report:

“Following is the summary report by the Psychiatric Investigative Team which assisted me in collecting information in this case. The team was headed by Robert Litman, M.D., Norman Farberow. Ph. D., and Norman Tabachnick, M.D.:

‘Marilyn Monroe died on the night of August 4th or the early morning of August 5th, 1962. Examination by the toxicology laboratory indicates that death was due to a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs. We have been asked, as consultants, to examine the life situation of the deceased and to give an opinion of the intent of Miss Monroe when she ingested the sedative drugs which caused her death. From the data obtained, the following points are the most important and relevant:
Miss Monroe suffered from psychiatric disturbance for a long time. She experienced severe fears and frequent depressions. Mood changes were abrupt and unpredictable. Among symptoms of disorganization, sleep disturbance was prominent, for which she had been taking sedative drugs for many years. She was thus familiar with and experienced in the use of sedative drugs and well aware of their dangers.
Recently, one of the main objectives of her psychiatric treatment had been the reduction of her intake of drugs. This has been partly successful during the last two months. She was reported to be following doctor’s orders in her use of drugs; and the amount of drugs found in her home at the time of her death was not unusual.
In our investigation, we have learned that Miss Monroe had often expressed wishes to give up, to withdraw, and even to die. On more than one occasion in the past, when disappointed and depressed, she made a suicide attempt using sedative drugs. On these occasions, she had called for help and had been rescued.
From the information collected about the events on the evening of August 4th, it is our opinion that the same pattern was repeated except for the rescue. It has been our practice with similar information collected in other cases in the past to recommend a certification for such deaths as a probable suicide.
Additional clues for suicide provided by the physical evidence are:
(1) the high level of barbiturates and chloral hydrate in the blood, which, with other evidence from the autopsy, indicate the probable ingestion of a large amount of drugs in a short period of time;
(2) the completely empty bottle of Nembutal, the prescription for which was filled the day before the ingestion of drugs; and
(3) the locked door which was unusual.’

MM7

Now that the final toxicological report and that of the psychiatric consultants have been received and considered, it is my conclusion that the death of Marilyn Monroe was caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.

– Theodore J. Curphey, M.D. Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner for the County of Los Angeles, August 13, 1962.”

There’s that word “probable” again.

A24In my time as a police officer and coroner, I’ve attended many drug overdose deaths. Some were clearly suicides, backed-up by threats and notes. Some were accidents by misadventure, usually mixed with alcohol. And some were undetermined—not shown to have a definite intent by the decedent to take their own life.

I’d say some of the undetermined deaths were probably suicides—if I could say it. But a coroner doesn’t have the legal option to say “probably”. There’s a long-held  court ruling called the Beckon Test that states a death can only be classified as a suicide if it can be determined that the individual knew the consequences of their actions would end in death and intentionally carried them out. There is a high standard of proof required for a finding of suicide as the ruling states:

A25

“In most legal cases the test to be satisfied is a balance of probability. But a determination of suicide can only be made where there is clear and convincing evidence. There is to be a presumption against suicide at the outset and one must be certain beyond a high degree of probability that the death was a suicide. Where one cannot be absolutely certain, the death must be classified as undetermined.”

Based on my death investigation experience, there are three points about Marilyn Monroe’s suicide ruling that bother me.

First, in all the polypharmacy overdoses I’ve seen where suicide was obvious, the deceased downed the whole darned stash.

A30In Monroe’s case, Dr. Engelberg prescribed her 50 caps of 500 mg Chloral Hydrate on July 31 as a refill for a previous Chloral Hydrate order on July 25. She was taking 10 per day. At her death scene, there were still 10 Chloral Hydrate caps left in her bedside vial. 40 were gone and, at a rate of 10 per day from July 31 till August 4, the pill count is right in order.

In the toxicology world, the effects of drugs are rated on a range scale of Therapeutic, Toxic, and Lethal. In the Lethal range, the substance is given a value called LD50 where it’s expected that 50 percent of the population would be expected to die from the drug’s effect at a certain point based upon the drug’s milligram blood content per the kilogram weight of the person.

MM17

Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy report recorded her weight at 117 pounds or 53.2 kilograms. The Chloral Hydrate level in her blood was determined to be 8.0 milligrams (percent) based on her weight or 80 parts per million (ppm). Looking at my toxicology scale from my coroner days, I see that Chloral Hydrate has a Therapeutic range to 30 ppm and an LD50 value at 100 ppm, so Monroe was 20% under the Chloral Hydrate lethal bar.

MM15

Looking at her barbiturate blood content from the Nembutal, it’s recorded to be 4.5 mg (percent) or 45 ppm. My chart says the barbiturate Pentobarbital, which is what’s in Nembutal, has a Therapeutic range to 12 ppm and an LD50 at 40 ppm. So Monroe was only 12.5 % over the average barbiturate lethal threshold, not taking into account that she was a very “tolerant” user.

However, the combination of Chloral Hydrate and Nembutal was deadly and this had to be known by Dr. Engelberg when he ordered Monroe’s prescription. This brings me to my second point.

A29A physician has a professional duty of care to their patient, especially when prescribing medication to a person with Monroe’s mental history. I find it irresponsible, actually negligent, that Dr. Engelberg failed to ensure Monroe no longer had Chloral Hydrate in her possession when he issued her a prescription for 25, 1500 mg caps of Nembutal four days later, knowing her supply of Chloral Hydrate wasn’t exhausted based on her prescribed consumption.

My third point deals with the “rescue” issue.

This very much applies to the Beckon Test. Intentional overdoses as attention-getting devices are common and always rely on the person’s backup plan that someone will intervene. This was part of Monroe’s previous overdose episodes as noted in the “psychological autopsy” report. And they referenced Monroe’s locked door as being unusual.

MM11

I think the locked door issue is completely negated by the fact that Monroe was found with her telephone receiver in hand. This was stated by Eunice Murray, Dr. Greenson, Dr. Engelberg, and corroborated by the investigating detective who verified they reported this to him and suggested she was phoning for rescue—which was her pattern—but was overcome.

If I were the coroner ruling on the manner of Marilyn Monroe’s death, I’d be legally bound to consider how the facts apply to the parameter of categories.

MM1A natural cause determination is completely eliminated by the autopsy and toxicology evidence. Monroe clearly died as the result of a drug overdose.

Despite kooky conspiracy theories that Bobby Kennedy snuck in and injected Marilyn Monroe to cover up her alleged affair with President Jack or that mobsters Jimmy Hoffa and Sam Giancana knocked her off to keep from ratting them out, no sensible person can make a case that Monroe was intentionally murdered. But a homicide ruling doesn’t just apply to murder. The definition of homicide is “the killing of a human being due to the act or omission of another”.

I believe Dr. Engelberg was professionally negligent in his duty of care to Marilyn Monroe. He had to know—certainly ought to have known—that he was treating an emotionally unstable patient with a history of suicide attempts through polypharmacy. By giving Monroe a potentially lethal amount of barbiturates and not ensuring her chloral hydrate was gone, Engelberg effectively signed her death warrant.

However negligent Engelberg may have been, though, my suspicion falls far short of the burden necessary for establishing a homicide conclusion.

A3That Monroe accidently died from a self-administered overdose is a distinct probability but, again, the Coroners Act and court precedents won’t allow me the liberty to rely on probabilities regarding suicide. I have to come to a clear conclusion based on facts.

Setting aside the locked door and phone receiver in hand—these two negate each other—I must defer to one other glaring fact. There were still 10 caps of Chloral Hydrate left in her pill vial. Marilyn Monroe was a very experienced and tolerant prescription pill user. She knew exactly what she was taking, what their effects were, and she failed to down her whole darned stash which is always proof of a polypharmacy overdose suicide.

A4So deferring to the Beckon Test, I have to presume against Marilyn Monroe’s suicide from the outset and must be satisfied beyond a high degree of probability that her death was a suicide—I must be certain—and I can’t—because no clear evidence exists that Monroe’s death was an intentional act to end her own life. It may well have been an unfortunate, unrescued accident.

Therefore, I find Marilyn Monroe’s manner of death as Undetermined.

TOP TWENTY INVENTORS KILLED BY THEIR INVENTIONS

A02There’s something ingrained in humans that cause us to take dangerous risks and try things that might change the world. Over the course of civilization, thousands upon thousands of inventions succeeded beyond their creator’s wildest dream. But some were epic fails. Here’s a look at the top twenty inventors who were killed by their own inventions.

A20 Andrews20. Thomas Andrews was the chief naval architect for the R.M.S. Titanic and it was his honor to accompany the ship on its maiden voyage. Andrews was aware of the Titanic’s vulnerability in ice-laden waters and originally called for the Titanic to be double-hulled and equipped with forty-six lifeboats, instead of the twenty it actually carried. He was overruled due to cost constraints. When the Titanic struck the iceberg on April 15, 1912, Andrews heroically helped many people into the lifeboats. He was last seen in the first-class smoking lounge, weeping. His body was never recovered.

A1919. William Bullock invented the first modern printing press. While installing a machine for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Bullock tried to kick a belt onto a pulley and got his leg crushed in the moving mechanism. He quickly developed gangrene and his leg needed amputating. During his surgery on April 12, 1867, Bullock died of complications.

A1818. Francis Edgar Stanley invented the photographic dry plate which he sold to George Eastman of Eastman-Kodak fame. With the profits, he founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Company and developed a line of steam-powered automobiles called Stanley Steemers. On July 13, 1918, Francis Stanley was testing one of his Steemers and swerved to miss some farm animals. He plowed into a wood pile and died.

A1717. Jean-Francoise Pilatre de Rozier was a French chemistry and physics teacher as well as being the true father of aviation. He made the first hot air balloon flight in 1783. He was also the first to experiment with hydrogen as a propellant, testing it by taking a mouthful and blowing it across an open flame. After losing his hair and eyebrows, he dismissed hydrogen as being too volatile—something the makers of the Hindenburg would later confirm. On July 15, 1785, de Rozier attempted to cross the English Channel in his balloon. It crashed, killing de Rozier and his passenger.

A1616. Louis Slotin was an American nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhatten Project. After the war, Slotin continued to experiment with plutonium and accidently set off a fission reaction which released a hard burst of radiation. Realizing what he’d done, Slotin heroically covered the material with his body while the others made a run for the hills. He died on May 30, 1946, two weeks after the exposure.

A1B

15. Karel Soucek was a Czechoslovakian daredevil and inventor. He built a specially-designed, shock-proof barrel and repeatedly flowed over Niagara Falls. To top this feat, Soucek invented a new capsule which was dropped from the roof of the Houston Astrodome on January 20, 1985. It missed its target, which was a small water container, and Soucek was killed on impact. World-renown stuntman, Evel Knievel, tried to talk Soucek out of it, saying “It was the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen.”

A1414. Sylvester H. Roper invented the world’s first motorcycle. He called it a velocipede and it was actually a converted bicycle powered by a steam engine. On June 01, 1896, Roper was testing the machine on a bicycle racing track and was lapping the pedal-powered two-wheelers at over forty mph. Suddenly, he wiped out and died. The autopsy showed the cause of death to be a heart attack, but it’s not known if the attack caused the crash or if the crash caused the attack. He was seventy-two.

13. Horace Lawson Hunley invented the submarine. His first prototype trapped seven sailors underwater and killed them all. Hunley went back to the drawing board and came up with a new and improved sub, aptly named the H.L. Hunley, which he skippered himself. On October 15, 1863, Hunley was testing the Hunley off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, when it failed to surface and again killed the crew—including Hunley himself.

A12A12. Aurel Viaicu was a Romanian inventor and test pilot of his own line of aircraft, called the Vlaicu WR I, II, and III. He achieved many notable firsts such as the highest, longest, and fastest flights. On Friday, September 13, 1913, Vlaicu’s luck ran out when he attempted the highest altitude flight ever—crossing the peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. The cause of the crash was never determined.

11. Valerian Abakovsky invented the Aerocar, also known as the Aerowagon, which was a steam-powered, propeller-driven rail car intended to whisk railway executives quickly across the vast lands of Siberia. On July 24, 1921, the twenty-five-year-old Abakovsky was whirling a group of twenty-two big-shots from Tula to Moscow when he approached a curve at over one hundred mph. His Aerocar went airborne and killed six, including the inventor.

A11

10. Marie Curie was a Polish chemist/physicist who pioneered research into radioactivity and won the Nobel Prize—twice. Besides proposing the theory of radiation and discovering two elements, she is credited with inventing radiography or X-rays. Curie died on July 14, 1934, in a French sanatorium from aplastic anemia due to long-term exposure to radiation, probably from her habit of carrying test-tubes of plutonium in her pockets.

A99. James Fuller “Jim” Fixx didn’t exactly invent running but he popularized it through his mega-bestselling book Complete Book Of Running. Fixx took up the sport after a lifetime of stress and bad habits. He became a world celebrity on fitness and healthy living. On the morning of July 20, 1984, he was out for his daily running fix and fell dead in his tracks on Route 15 in Hardwick, Vermont. His official cause of death was a fulminant heart attack. The autopsy showed his heart arteries were 70% blocked in the right anterior descending, 80% blocked in the left anterior descending, and 95% blocked in the circumflex. Runner Jim Fixx was fifty-two.

8. Max Valier was an Austrian rocket scientist who invented solid and liquid fueled missiles. Given his success with flight, Valier thought it’d be cool to make a rocket-propelled car. It worked, too, and he got it up to 250 mph. Trying to get even better, Valier experimented with alcohol as a combustible. That got away on him and blew up on his workbench, killing Valier and burning his workshop down.

A77. Alexander Bogdanov was a Russian physician, writer, politician, and inventor of sorts. He was a major player in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and ended up in jail. He talked his way out of death row and back into medicine where he became obsessed with blood. Bogdanov founded the Institute For Haematology and was convinced that blood transfusion was the ticket to the fountain of youth. To back up his beliefs, he used himself as a crash-test dummy and transfused blood from a patient suffering malaria and tuberculosis into his own system. He died two days later on April 07, 1928, but the patient slowly got better. It seems that the blood types were incompatible—something little known in the day.

A66. Otto Lilienthal was known as The Glider King. A German pioneer in aviation, Lilienthal made over 2,000 glider flights and is credited with perfecting the gull-wing design and set the long-held record of soaring to 1820 feet. On August 10, 1896, Lilienthal experimented with “shifting weight” in a glider at fifty feet. It lost lift, stalled, and he augered into the ground, breaking his neck.

A45. Li Si died in 208 BC at age seventy-two of The Five Pains. That was a form of torture or “punishments” involving tattooing the face, cutting off the nose, cutting off the feet, castration, and finally death by exposure. Li Si was Prime Minister during China’s Qin Dynasty and fell out of favor with the Emperor. It should be noted Li Si invented The Five Pains.

4. Henry Smolinski held a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Northrup Institute Of Technology. Old Hank got the idea that a flying car was necessary so he bastardized the boxed-wing rear section of a Cessna 337 Skymaster and welded it onto the top of a ’71 Ford Pinto. He actually got the thing to fly. On September 11, 1973, Hank took his buddy, Harold Blake, up for a soar in the Pinto. At around three hundred feet, one of the wings snapped and the pony-car bucked them off to a fiery death. The Transportation Safety Board investigated and said there was nothing wrong with Hank’s design, just that his welding was the shits.

A3A Pinto

A3AA3. Abu Nasr Ismail ibn Hammad a-Jawhari died around 1008 AD at Nishapur which is in today’s Iraq. He was a Muslim cleric, scholar, and a bit of an inventor. He was fascinated with flight so he built a pair of feather-covered, wooden wings and strapped them to his back and arms. To impress the Iman, Mr. a-Jawhari jumped off the roof of the mosque hoping they’d work. They didn’t, but to commemorate the first known attempt at human flight, they built a mural on the wall of the mosque. It’s actually quite pretty.

A22. Wan-Hu may or may not have been real. Some say he was apocryphal, or doubtful, but one thing’s for sure—he’s a legend. Wan-Hu was reported to be a 16th-century Chinese official who tried to shoot himself to the moon by attaching forty-seven rockets to a chair and lighting them all at once. They say there was this huge bang and, when the smoke cleared, Wan-Hu and his chair were nowhere to be found. Today, there’s a crater on the moon named after Wan-Hu… and I’m not making this up.

A1A1. Franz Reichelt was real—a real stupid sonofabitch if there ever was one. He was known as The Flying Tailor and is credited with inventing the coat parachute. To prove it worked, he conned the keepers of the Eifel Tower to let him demonstrate. On February 04, 1912, Franz held a major press venue so they could witness his inaugural jump. He leaped from the first deck and gravity took over. It was captured on film and today you can watch this moron splat himself on YouTube.

Here’s the link.