Actor Vic Morrow and two child-actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, died on the set of the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie when the Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter being used to film the climax of the movie’s first segment destabilized and crashed. The scene was filmed at night at Indian Dunes Ranch in Santa Clarita, California, and required Morrow to carry the two child-actors through a river while the helicopter pursued at an altitude of about 25 ft. overhead. Director John Landis instructed the pilot to take the vehicle even lower during one of the takes. A pyrotechnic went off while the helicopter’s tail-rotor was still over-top of it, causing it to detach and send the vehicle into an uncontrolled spin. Morrow and Le were decapitated by the helicopter’s top-blades while Chen was crushed to death by one of the skids. All six crew members in the helicopter were injured but survived. Footage of the accident recorded by the on-set cameras survived and has since been made available on the Internet. This accident led to a lengthy civil and criminal court case that lasted nearly a decade (a major component of which was the fact that Le and Chen were hired illegally by John Landis with disregard to the California’s child-labor laws), and marked the first time in the history of Hollywood that a director has been criminally charged due to a fatality on set. The event also led to revisions in the safety-practices that movie studios use for filming. Dick Peabody, an actor and a personal friend of Vic Morrow that co-starred with him on previous television projects that was attending the filming that night, has said that Morrow’s last words before beginning the stunt were “I’ve got to be crazy to do this shot. I should have asked for a double.”
Malachi Ritscher, a 52-year-old musician and recording-engineer, set himself on fire and burned to death on the side of the Kennedy Expressway during morning rush-hour in downtown Chicago in what he claimed in a suicide-note to be an act of protest against the Iraq War.
Luan Phi Dawson, a 33-year-old software engineer visiting the Disneyland theme park in California for their Christmas Eve celebration, died after being struck in the head by a 9 lb. metal cleat used to secure the sailing ship Columbia. While the ship was docking, the cleat was pulled out of the dock under the tension of a cable and sailed through the air at tremendous speed into a nearby group of people. Dawson was declared brain-dead two days later. One other guest, Dawson’s wife, and a park attendee were injured non-fatally in the accident. This event was notable for being the first death of a guest in Disneyland history that was the result of insufficient maintenance resulting in an accident rather than a guest’s negligence in following safety-rules.
Ramon Jose Rodriguez, a 23-year-old construction worker from Miami, Florida, was killed when a Porta-Jon portable toilet fell from the fourth story of a building and landed on top of him. The portable toilet was on rollers to make it easier to frequently move and was blown off the edge of an unfinished building by a sudden gust of wind.
Javier Cruz, a 38-year-old employee of Disney World and father of two, died while performing in a Pluto costume during the Share a Dream Come True Parade when he was run-over by Beauty & the Beast float.
Submission by Logan Agle. Thank you.
Unseasonably warm temperatures caused a 50 ft. tall and 90 ft. diameter tank of molasses being processed at the Purity Distilling Company in Boston, Massachusetts, to rupture, spilling 2,300,000 gallons of raw molasses into the city streets. The resulting 25 ft. tall wave was estimated to have been travelling upwards of 35 mph. It killed 21 people and injured 150 more in what has come to be known as “The Boston Molasses Flood”.
Three military technicians were killed during maintenance of the SL-1 experimental nuclear reactor in Butte County, Idaho, in January of 1961. A control rod was withdrawn too quickly, causing the reactor to undergo a “prompt critical” reaction. The sudden power-surge instantaneously vaporized a large amount of coolant-water, creating a pressure-wave that caused the entire 26,000 lb. vessel to jump nine feet into the air and a water-hammer event that launched debris and steam into the surrounding area. Army Specialists John A. Byrnes, age 27, and Richard Leroy McKinley, age 22, were killed by the resulting spray of scalding, radioactive steam. Navy Construction Electrician Richard C. Legg, age 26, who was standing on top of the vessel at the time, was impaled through the groin and out of the shoulder by one of the shield-plugs, with his body left pinned to the ceiling. This event resulted in the design of future nuclear reactors being greatly altered for improved safety.
Submission by Logan Agle. Thank you.
Bobby Jackson, a 19-year-old from Buffalo, New York, committed suicide by jumping off of the observation-deck of the 28th floor of the Buffalo City Hall Building. During his fall a gust of wind blew him about 15 ft. out of his initial trajectory, and he was impaled through the back and out the chest on a 40 ft. flagpole sticking up from the roof of the building’s 4th floor landing.
Peter Burkowski, an 18-year-old student from Calumet City, Illinois, died at the Friar Tuck’s Game Room arcade of a sudden heart-attack after getting one of the top ten high scores on an arcade cabinet of the game Berzerk twice in a row. Burkowski’s death is strikingly similar to that of Jeff Dailey who had died a little over a year prior and become the first person in history to die while playing video games. Both died of a heart-attack, both were close to the same age, both died after achieving high scores on an arcade cabinet, and both died during or immediately after playing Berzerk. These events have entered gaming folklore and become something known as “The Berzerk Curse”, or “The Curse of Evil Otto”, named after an enemy in Berzerk called “Evil Otto” that tends to be very challenging and shows up at the end of levels.
Jeff Dailey, a 19-year-old from Virginia, is said to be the first person in history to die while playing video games. Dailey made it onto the top ten high scores list on an arcade cabinet for the game Berzerk with a score of 16,660 points and then suddenly died of a heart-attack.
Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, a 24-year-old employee of a Las Vegas beauty salon, proclaimed the benefits of cryotherapy to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. An unorthodox treatment becoming more familiar, some say cryotherapy, which entails exposing the body to sub-zero temperatures, can have great benefits, particularly after a traditional facial and moisturizer treatment. So explained aesthetician Chelsea Ake-Salvacion. “We like to do the cryofacial afterward because it helps seal everything in.” Then came a bizarre twist. Before her comments were even published, Ake-Salvacion was dead — in her salon’s cryotherapy chamber. She froze to death in “seconds” after she entered the cryotherapy chamber alone at the Las Vegas salon. She had reportedly been in the machine for more than 10 hours when her body was found.
Josiah P. Wilbarger, a surveyer working as part of a four-man team in Texas, was captured by Comanche Native Americans along with another member of his team in 1833. Both men were scalped and left for dead with their bodies dumped by a river. Wilbarger actually survived the incident and went on to live 11 more years working as a cotton-farmer, living with the surface of his skull fully exposed around the top of his head. He died in 1845 when he accidentally struck his head on a low support-beam while entering his gin shed, severely fracturing his skull.
Monica Gooden, a 20-year-old from Lauderhill, Florida, was beaten to death with a Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console after being stabbed multiple times by her boyfriend, Darrius Johnson. In addition to the bizarre method by which the murder was committed, Johnson claimed his motive for killing his girlfriend was that “she had control over his spirit” and that he had to “sacrifice” someone with a Taurus astrological sign in order to undo the supposed supernatural curse.
Robert Williams, a 25-year-old worker at the Ford Motor Company Factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, is said to be the first man in history to be killed by a robot. A robotic arm designed to pick up and remove stray parts from a work-area began functioning slower than normally intended, and Williams entered the area to speed up the process by picking up the parts himself. The robotic arm descended unexpectedly and struck him in the head, killing him instantly.
Submission by Logan Agle. Thank you.
Humberto Hernandez, a 24-year-old Oakland, California, was killed after being struck in the face by an airborne fire hydrant while walking. A passing car had struck the fire hydrant and the water pressure shot the hydrant at Hernandez with enough force to kill him.
WWF wrestler Owen Hart, also known as “Blue Blazer”, fell to his death performing an entry-stunt during the Over the Edge pay-per-view event at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City. The stunt intended to have Hart lowered dramatically via stunt-cables to just above ring-level from the rafters and then have a quick-release activate to drop him face-first to comedic effect. The quick-release was accidentally triggered early during the stunt and Hart fell 78 ft. and landed chest-first on the rope, throwing him backwards into the ring. While the pay-per-view audience did not see the accident transpire due to delay in the live-feed in order to include a video vignette, the live audience for the event apparently thought the accident was an intended part of the show until the announcer stated otherwise.
Submission by Logan Agle. Thank you.
Christine Chubbuck, a news reporter working for WXLT-TV in Florida, committed suicide during a live television broadcast. On the morning of July 15, 1974, Chubbuck concluded a usual summary of the top news-stories of the day and turned to the camera to say “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first – attempted suicide”, before withdrawing a revolver and shooting herself behind her right ear. Chubbuck violently collapsed onto her desk, with the technical-director on set immediately fading the broadcast to black and having the channel broadcast a PSA and then a movie to fill the void in the schedule. The station was hit with a wave of phone-calls from viewers asking if what they had seen had been an elaborate prank. Suffering from extended bouts of clinical depression, Chubbuck had apparently planned to commit suicide during a live broadcast well in advance, as the sheets she had been reading from for her broadcast turned out to contain an account of her suicide she had written in advance in the form of a news-report. Footage of the incident has been withheld by WXLT-TV and no copy of the incident was known to have been recorded by any viewers of the live broadcast.
Rebecca Longhoffer, a 39-year-old mother of four, was electrocuted when she stepped on a cast-iron covering for electrical wiring in the sidewalk of one of the street-corners of the Vegas Strip. Heavy rains had flooded the compartment with standing water and deteriorated covers on the wiring allowed the water and conductive panel to become electrified.
Emory E. Potter, a 45-year-old man from Philadelphia died of a heart attack three hours after his daughter. His daughter Mary Ann, 8, seriously ill from a streptococcus infection, told her mother hours before she died: “I wouldn’t mind dying if only papa would go along with me.”