Sometimes the fastest method results in the deadliest outcome. The tale of New Zealand’s Howard Miller, 39, a professional welder and Darwin Award Winner, illustrates the pitfalls of ignoring high school chemistry with a time-saving invention.
Always helpful, Miller spent his last moments helping a friend weld an exhaust pipe onto a classic Holden Kingswood sedan. He arrived at the garage shed with an experimental welding kit: an LPG bottle, similar to a propane tank, in which he had mixed both components that make up oxy-acetylene welding gas: acetylene and oxygen.
Now, that last detail should send a shiver down any welder’s spine! Professional welders know that these components are kept in separate tanks because, when combined, they burn hot enough to cut metal. A tank of mixed acetylene/oxygen + no flow regulator = an accident waiting to happen.
Like a scene from Breaking Bad, Mr. Miller had unwittingly constructed a lethal explosive!
Once Miller unveiled his jury-rigged device, his friend recognized this dangerous equation and repeatedly warned that it was crazy! Finally, he high-tailed it out of the shed while Miller, undeterred by a bit of panic, attached a torch head straight onto the bottle and lit the welding tip.
Sans regulator, the flame crept back into the bottle and the inevitable explosion flattened the shed, which also contained about twenty liters of paint thinner and gasoline. The force of the explosion was so intense it shattered the windows of neighboring properties.
Needless to say, the friend is in need of a new car.
The deceased winner, a gentle and generous man, would surely be grateful to know that no one else was hurt in the fracas. And as a consolation prize, his tragic experiment will benefit others by demonstrating a potential consequence of skipping chemistry class.
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