Death in the 21st Century

Sean Dugas, death by cement

Police in Winder, Georgia, recently made a grisly discovery in the backyard of suspicious twin brothers, William and Christopher Cormier. Encased in concrete and buried there was 30-year-old Sean Dugas, a former crime reporter for the Pensacola News Journal who had gone missing in late August. The twins have been charged with the murder and thus far, their motive remains unclear. Things are much more “set in stone” for poor Sean, though.

Sorry. That was in poor taste.

The demise of Sean Dugas—as well as my own dark and rather morbid sense of humor—got me thinking once again about the Dark Master that calls on us all: death. Whether people can admit it or not, we all think about death and worry about our own impending doom. Some of us will go peacefully, but others face more interesting ends.

These are the stories that I find myself drawn to, mostly because I don’t want to go the same way—like the poor guy cooked to death in a tuna factory (see “Cooked Like Tuna”). Tragic as they are, unusual deaths frighten us while also comforting us. I always look at them as probabilities. “That guy got eaten by a shark, so the odds of me being eaten just went way down.” Is this a realistic approach? Maybe not, but it does make me feel a little better.

Here are some stories about people who weren’t so lucky. Sean, you are in good company.

This year has been very interesting in terms of unusual deaths. There was Terry Vance Garner, the Oregon farmer eaten by his own pigs; Uroko Onoja, the polygamist in Nigeria who died after being forced to have sex with four of his five wives back-to-back (figuratively speaking); Maria Pantazopoulos, the bride who drowned during a photo shoot in the river when her waterlogged dress pulled her under; and Dieter Strack, the German sports official who took a javelin to the neck. And who knows what is to come in the next few months.

Of course, death since the turn of the century includes some equally strange and bizarre tales.

Pizza delivery boom

Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery man in Erie, Pennsylvania, was killed in 2003 by a bomb fastened around his neck. Although it sounds like a scene from “Saw,” this really happened. Wells was arrested while robbing a bank and told police he was forced to do it by “others.” Apparently, these unknown suspects were displeased and detonated the bomb, killing Wells instantly.

In another scene reminiscent of Hollywood was the death of Dr. Hitoshi Nikaidoh in 2003. Dr. N rushed into an elevator with his head, but forgot to bring his body with him. Consequently, he was decapitated just above his lower jaw and killed. Electricians later found a glitch that bypassed all the elevator’s safeguards. If only Dr. N had waited for the next lift.

Last year had its share of strange deaths, too. Consider Acton Beale, the only known fatality connected to “planking,” the popular fad where people lie flat and pretend to be planks of wood. Beale was planking from his balcony and died when he inevitably fell.

Another notable 2011 end came for Jose Luis Ochoa, a cockfight promoter who died after one of his birds cut him with a knife he tied to its leg. Then there was Arthur Sexton, who fell off a ladder face-first into a rainwater barrel and drowned in only a few feet of water. All Arthur wanted to do was work in his garden, and look where it got him.

In 2009, American sailor Jonathan Campos killed himself by stuffing toilet paper into his mouth until he choked to death. He was being held on murder charges at the time and I guarantee his guards never thought Charmin could be fatal.

Grim Reaper (advertisement)

Our friend Grim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That same year, Vladimir Likhonos, a student in the Ukraine, dipped his chewing gum into a liquid he thought was citric acid. Unfortunately, the liquid was an explosive he was using for another project. When Likhonos started to chew again, he blew off the lower part of his head and immediately perished. This death has been sponsored by Wrigley’s Gum.

The last 11 ½ years have been gruesome, traumatic, curious, unusual and even entertaining where the Grim Reaper is concerned. For every person who passed away peacefully in their bed, surrounded by friends and loved ones, there was another who fell into a wood chipper, fell asleep in a pig cooker or lost his head in some freak accident.

When I finally bite the big one, I hope it’s in my own bed. Who wouldn’t? But I can say this: if I am meant to “go out” some other way, I hope it’s worthy of Hollywood. After all, there’s nothing wrong with going out with a bang.

Posted on October 15, 2012, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Outdid yourself this time.Scary,sad & funny,all in one.They should give you an award for versatility.Anyway,hope I go quietly & painlessly in my sleep.I think we are more afraid of the pain than we are of being dead.Wish I could live forever though.Many adventures & interesting people.

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