August, 2002

August 1, 2002
Excerpt from "Retreat, Hell! - The Epic Story of the 1st Marines in Korea":
Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, Yudam-ni, 4:00 A.M.: PFC LeRoy R. Hintsa was in a tent, resting, in the valley when the fighting erupted in the hills. "We heard explosions and then a piece of shrapnel came through and hit a water can. From here on, all hell broke loose that night," he said. "We didn't know what was going on until early morning." Hintsa jumped into the nearest foxhole and stayed there the rest of the night. Just before dawn the wounded began slipping, sliding down the hillsides toward the aid tents. Many couldn't get out of their holes and were freezing. So Hintsa and others started toward the top with stretchers to help out. He made several trips, then rested briefly. A marine staggered by toward the aid tent. "His lower jaw was missing. All he had was frozen red icicles on his face," Hintsa said. A corpsman came over, told the wounded marine there was nothing he could do, that when he thawed, he would die. Then he handed him a pencil and a piece of paper and told him to write a letter home. "The last time I saw him," Hintsa remembers, "he was sitting outside the aid tent writing a letter." ("Retreat, Hell! - The Epic Story of the 1st Marines in Korea" by Jim Wilson, Pocket Books, 1988, ISBN 0-671-67866-3, generously donated by Xavier)

August 3, 2002
Colin Vincent, a 57 year-old handy man, beheaded himself on October 13, 1999, two months to the day after the death of his beloved wife, Joan. He had constructed a guillotine with a drop of 10 ft. in the stairwell of an outside cellar door at his home in Hallifax, West Yorkshire. When the police arrived, there was a level nearby to make sure that the blade was set true, and wouldn't jar. His head had been cleanly decapitated through the lower part of the neck. He still had a pair of pliers in his left hand that he used to cut the retaining wire, and release the heavy blade, which required three men to move. The guillotine was apparently very well constructed, and there was evidence that test drops had been made. (The Telegraph, The Yorkshire Post, Dec 3, 1999, donated by RUNEFAER)

August 6, 2002
Tyrone Power was one of the most famous leading men in Hollywood from the 1930's through the 1950's. First recognized for his incredible good-looks and dashing charm, Tyrone was cast in many romantic comedies, musicals, and swashbuckling adventures. As Tyrone's film career progressed, he finally was acknowledged as an actor with considerable talent. However, when he died (on a movie set, like his father before him), Ty was shooting another of those costumed sword-and-horseplay epics he had grown to hate so much: Solomon and Sheba. On a hot November 15, 1958, while shooting a difficult dueling scene with George Sanders that required many retakes, Tyrone suddenly turned very pale and asked to rest. Once in his dressing room, he commented on the pain he was experiencing in his arms and chest, but insisted it was merely bursitis; there was no doctor on the set to deal with his complaints. At 11:30 a.m., having gotten worse, he was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he died within the hour of a heart attack. (Ironically, during the summer of 1958, Power had made an educational movie short sponsored by the American Heart Association, in which he emphasized the necessity of avoiding overwork because "time is the most precious thing we have.") (The Hollywood Book Of Death)

August 7, 2002
On 20 October 1930, William Kogut, an inmate on San Quentin's death row, was awaiting execution for the throat-slash murder of Mayme Guthrie, who ran a rooming house (which may have doubled as a gaming house and brothel) in Oroville, California. Kogut removed a hollow steel leg from his cot, tore several packs of playing cards into tiny pieces, and stuffed these bits into the pipe. (At the time, red playing cards were reportedly made using a rather volatile ink.) He plugged one end tightly with a broom handle, and poured water into the other end to soak the torn cards. He then placed this device on top of the kerosene heater next to his bed, laid down, and put his head up against the open end of the pipe. The heater turned the water into steam, and when the pressure built up to a high enough level, the resulting explosion shot the bits of playing cards out of the pipe with enough force to penetrate Kogut's skull. Kogut felt he should punish himself for having taken Guthrie's life rather than let the State carry out its mandate. His suicide note, addressed to the warden, read: "Do not blame my death on any one because I fixed everything myself. I never give up as long as I am living and have a chance, but this is the end."
( The Urban Legends Reference Pages, donated by The Viscount DeLirium)

August 8, 2002
Teofilo Gonzalez Cano stabbed his cousin to death with two quick jabs to the heart. They had been the best of friends, growing up together in the same mud-brick house in this tiny village in southern Mexico. But one night they drank themselves nearly blind on homemade grain alcohol. An argument about nothing got out of hand, and soon Vicente Gonzalez Santiago lay dead in the dirt. Teofilo ran. They found him at dawn, sitting in a forest clutching his empty bottle. The local farmer who served as village constable, another cousin of Teofilo's, bound his hands behind his back and brought him in. The whole village was waiting, more than 300 people. They forced Teofilo to lie facedown next to Vicente's corpse. They shouted at him, called him a murderer. His mother sat in the dirt next to her son, pleading for mercy. Justice in this backwater belongs to a half-dozen town elders, who stood over the two cousins in their early thirties, one dead and one accused, and debated the punishment that day in 1999. Finally they agreed. "They said the two of them should be buried together," said Catarina Cano Santiago, Teofilo's mother. The elders enlisted villagers to carry out the sentence. Some of the men hacked a grave in the rocky soil of the village cemetery. Someone banged together a flimsy wooden coffin, and the villagers put Vicente's body in it. They hoisted the box and began a procession down a narrow cow path to the graveyard. Others dragged Teofilo by the arms. Women and children followed, marching under a hot sun past fields of dead corn. They placed Vicente's coffin in the hole, then threw Teofilo in on top, with his arms and legs tied together. He screamed and begged for his life, calling out to his mother, "Please don't let them do this to me!" She tried to help him, but her neighbors and friends held her back. Twenty men started throwing dirt into the hole with shovels and sticks. Teofilo, screaming, tried to climb out. His 14-year-old son, Felipe, ran to him and tried to hug him and pull him up. Someone tossed a lasso around Teofilo's neck and jerked him back into the grave, ripping him from his boy's embrace. They pulled the crying youth away from his father as the dirt piled higher and higher on top of him, until he disappeared into the ground. "When they finished," said his mother, "you could still hear him screaming under the ground."
(The Washington Post, donated by Julie)

August 9, 2002
The expertise with which some of the Egyptian pharoahs were embalmed has resulted in their preservation for thousands of years. The embalming of Sequenenre (at the end of the 17th Dynasty) was much less successful, probably because he died a violent death. Whether he died in battle or was assassinated is uncertain. What is obvious for all to see are the wounds which brought about his end. Sequenenre's brain was not removed prior to embalming, and his body had already begun to decompose. Even today people comment on the revolting smell given off by his mummy. The head shows multiple fractures of the forehead, eye socket and cheekbone, probably caused by an axe. A javelin penetrated below the left ear and embedded itself in the top of his spine. (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions and Fears)

August 11, 2002
The former El Paso police detective awaiting trial for allegedly raping his 13-year-old stepdaughter in 1998 and 1999 died Monday evening at Thomason Hospital. Jose Laredo, 41, was unconscious and bleeding profusely from the head in a video booth at Eros Adult Bookstore in Las Cruces. Laredo had his pants around his ankles and was in the company of another stepdaughter, 18-year-old Desiree Laredo. Las Cruces investigators found no sign of foul play and suspected an aneurysm killed Laredo. Laredo, an 18-year veteran of the El Paso Police Department, was arrested in November 2000 for allegedly having intercourse with and sodomizing a stepdaughter on more than one occasion at his home in the 4700 block of Round Rock Drive between Sept. 1, 1998, and Oct. 3, 1999. He was removed from his job as a detective at the Northeast Regional Command Center in December 2000. Laredo was indicted in March 2001 on five counts of sexual assault of a child younger than 17, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000. Monday (8/5/02), at the adult video store at 2200 E. Amador in Las Cruces, a distraught Desiree Laredo first told police that she was not related to Laredo, that they just lived in the same house and that it was a coincidence that they had the same last name. She also said that they didn't engage in a sexual act in the video booth and that it was the first time she had been there. She said she was sitting down and Laredo was standing with his pants around his ankles when he suddenly fell and hit his head around 2 p.m. She cried out for help.
(The El Paso Times, donated by sgthebeker)

August 12, 2002
A woman committed suicide by jumping into a pool of more than 100 crocodiles in front of a shocked crowd of tourists at a Samut Prakan zoo yesterday. Somjai Setbun, a 40-year-old Surin native, died after suffering serious injuries to her head and neck when one of the reptiles bit into her and dragged her into the water. "It happened so quickly that there was no time for anyone to stop her," said Thanes Wiriyaporn, a tourist guide at Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo. Mr Thanes told police Somjai's face had registered no emotion as she climbed over the crocodile pool's two-metre steel perimeter fence at about 11 am. When the crocodile attacked and dragged her into the water, she wrapped her arms around it and did not resist. Scores of other reptiles subsequently swarmed around Somjai, before security guards fought them away with bamboo poles. Somjai left a letter at the scene of her death criticising her husband and apologising to her two children. The woman's 19-year-old son, Wilai, said his mother had been suffering from stress, but had never talked about family problems. He believed his mother took her own life because his father had flirted with other women.
( The Bangkok News, donated by Alf)

August 13, 2002
A Zwelitsha man accused of disembowelling a woman by pulling her intestines through her rectum, which resulted in her death, was arrested on Saturday, July 27, 2002 in King William's Town. Nomsa Rumbu, 41, of Zone 8, who had ninety percent of her intestines removed through her rectum died at the Frere Hospital last week on Sunday. Monde Nxazonke, 23, who was wanted in connection with the incident, was arrested at Kubusie in the Stutterheim area after a tip-off. He was recently acquitted on a charge of rape in the same court due to a lack of evidence and was subsequently convicted for assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm and fined. It is alleged that Rumbu and her mentally-disabled son, 18, were making their way home from a circumcision ceremony last week on Saturday. They were accosted by a man who went to their home with them and then allegedly disembowelled Rumbu by forcing his hand up her rectum and pulling her intestines out. Her son, who was forced to witness the incident, was threatened with death and could not come to his mother's assistance. Neighbours were later alerted and Rumbu was admitted to hospital. Doctors attempted to operate but her injuries were so severe that there was nothing they could do. District surgeon Dr Basil Wingreen who performed a post-mortem on Rumbu described it as "the most bizarre post-mortem I have conducted in my 45-years as a medical practitioner and district surgeon". The post-mortem stated the cause of death as evisceration (disembowelment of the intestines). Police are also investigating the possibility that Rumbu may have been raped prior to being disembowelled. (Independent Online, donated by: Amos Quito)

August 16, 2002
When three "floating walkways" crashed to the floor of Kansas City, MO’s swank new Hyatt Regency on July 17, 1981, speculation first fixed on the patrons who’d been dancing on them: perhaps their high-stepping had set off a harmonic wave that made the sky bridges buckle and crumble. The truth proved more prosaic. The hotel’s engineers had originally designed two of the three walkways to hang on common, vertical metal rods. But the metal fabricator took a fatal shortcut, substituting shorter rods hanging from one level to the next. The second-floor walkway thus hung from the fourth-floor, doubling the weight on its connectors. The fabricator claimed to have requested approval for this change; the engineers insisted they weren’t asked, though they had signed off on final drawings that included it. The designers had also asked to be on site during construction, when they might have spotted the change, but were rebuffed by an owner determined to avoid additional expense. When enough patrons filled the walkways, the connections gave way. Thanks to miscommunication and corner-cutting, 114 perished in the deadliest structural failure in U.S. history. (Technology Review, donated by Vickie J. Woods)

August 19, 2002
On July 6, 1944, a fire broke out at a Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus big top in Hartford, Connecticut. The tent had been waterproofed with a mixture of paraffin and gasoline; in seconds it was burning out of control. More than 8,000 people were trapped inside, and the ensuing disaster would eventually take 167 lives. Firefighter William Cieri was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the disaster and he began to search for victims. The first person he saw was a woman running with her dress on fire. She fell to the ground, the fabric burning off her back. He wanted to turn her over to smother the flames and went to pick her up by one of her biceps. Her flesh felt like putty: it had been cooked. She stiffened up right there in his hands. He turned her over and discovered she was pregnant and a feeling of helplessness came over him. Inside the tent - where the tent had been - was a boy kneeling as if in prayer, his hands clasped in front of him, his head resting on a ring curb. He wasn't charred, but the heat had cracked his skull like a boiled egg left too long in the pot, his brain sticking through the fissures. (
The Circus Fire)

August 26, 2002
Sometimes even the safest technology is vulnerable to the not-so-perfect world around it. In the 34 years since the inauguration of high-speed rail, no line anywhere in the world had suffered a fatal accident. All that changed on June 3, 1998, on the Inter City Express line near Eschede in northern Germany, when a small improvement in comfort derailed this carefully managed system. High-speed trains generally run on solid 'monobloc' metal wheels, but to dampen noise and vibration the Inter City Express (like many lower-speed light-rail systems) wrapped these in metal 'tires' cushioned with rubber inserts. Inspectors examined the tires daily, but even ultrasound failed to detect a minute crack in one tire. It broke, causing a partial derailment. But the train continued upright and likely would have reached a safe stop if it hadn’t chanced to pass under an old-style roadway bridge that, unlike newer bridges, rested on a central pillar, which stood between the line’s two tracks. A swinging car clipped the pillar, and the bridge collapsed on the train, causing a massive pileup and 101 deaths. So it goes, all too often, when new, high-performance technology is inserted into older infrastructure built to operate with a greater margin of error. The high-speed train was a round peg in the square hole of an outdated rail corridor. (Technology Review, donated by Vickie J. Woods)

August 29, 2002
Portage County authorities are struggling to explain the gruesome death of a Stevens Point teenager who police say killed himself Saturday with a power saw. A 911 caller alerted police at about 7:45 p.m. Saturday that a man, later identified as Logan P. Sterling, 19, had crashed his vehicle into trees at North Second and Johnson streets. Sterling then fled on foot to a Dubay Avenue residence less than a half-mile away where he entered a stranger's garage and used a miter saw to sever his neck, according to police and witness reports. The resident, who was watching TV at the time, heard his dog barking and the sound of the saw and found Sterling lying unconscious in the garage. Stevens Point police have ruled the crash intentional based on an interview with a male passenger in Sterling's vehicle, who received only minor injuries. The Portage County Sheriff's Department continues to investigate Sterling's death as a suicide. "Because of the nature of this, we'd like to find out what his thought process was at the time," said Sheriff's Lt. Ron Ryskoski. (Wassau Daily Herald, donated by Bruce Townley)

August 30, 2002
The sudden, searing tagedy which had perhaps the greatest impact on Yellowstone Park and the National Park Service occurred on June 28, 1970. In the middle of that afternoon, Andy C. Hecht, 9, of Williamsville, New York, was walking with his vacationing family along a boardwalk near Crested Pool in the Old Faithful area. A puff of wind apparently blew the pool's hot vapor into Andy's eyes, momentarily blinding him at a turn in the walkway. Some accounts claim Andy tripped at the edge of the boardwalk, which had no guardrail. At any rate, he plunged into the pool where the temperature was over 200 degrees F. Andy tried vainly to swim a couple of strokes, then was scalded to death and sank. According to two national magazines, the last glimpse his mother had of him was seeing his rigid, stark-white face, the mark of his pain and apprehension of death, sinking into the boiling water. Andy's father stated that they did not see him fall; he was behind them on the boardwalk when they heard a splash, turned around, and saw in horror that he had fallen into Crested Pool. Regardless, his body sank out of sight. Eight pounds of bone, flesh and clothing were recovered the following day. (Death In Yellowstone)

August 31, 2002
Jimmy Garlick is one of the rare examples of natural mummification that can be seen in Britain. In 1839, during excavation work being carried out in St James Garlickhythe in the City of London, the calcified body of a young man was found buried near the altar. Nothing is known about him except that he is at least 300 years old. He is known affectionately as 'Jimmy Garlick' and presently stands in an upright box in the snug warmth of the boiler-room in the basement of the church. He shows no signs of having been embalmed. Plans are far advanced to provide a permanent place in the body of the church to exhibit this unusual relic. (
Death: A History of Man's Obsessions and Fears)