Unlike most classic internet tales, something like this actually happened.

Date:    Fri, 18 Apr 1997 10:48:23 PDT
To:      jsexton
Subject: Darwin Award

>You'll recall a Darwin Award winner not long ago where a former Air
>Force sergeant decided to strap a cargo plane rocket booster to his car
>to see how fast it would go and ended up killing himself (hence the
>"Darwin" award... in the struggle for survival only the fittest
>survive....) when his car didn't negotiate a curve in on the road in
>northern New Mexico where he had set up this experiment. The car smashed
>into the side of a cliff several hundred feet above the roadbed.
>Here's the 1997 winner: Larry Waters of Los Angeles. Larry is one of the
>few to win the award and still be alive.
>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, brightened up. 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, measured
>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
>that 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 where 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 for Larry. When he cut the cord anchoring
>the lawn chair to his jeep, he didn't float lazily up to 30 or 50 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 when he found himself in the primary
>approach corridor of LAX.
>A Pan Am 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
>LAX is right on the ocean. Night was falling and the offshore breeze
>began to flow. It carried Larry out to sea. Right on Larry's heels was
>the helicopter. 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, with which he was hauled back to shore, a
>difficult maneuver, 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 air space. As he was led away in
>handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue, asked him
>why he had done it. Larry stopped, turned and replied nonchalantly, "A
>man can't just sit around."

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