Darwin Awards start with “Hold my beer and watch this”

A 22-year-old man who was drinking and celebrating the Fourth of July tried to launch a firework off the top of his head, killing him instantly, authorities said Sunday.

Devon Staples and his friends had been drinking and setting off fireworks Saturday night in the backyard of a friend’s home in eastern Maine, said Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

Staples, 22, of Calais, a small city on the Canadian border, placed a reloadable fireworks mortar tube on his head and told his friends he was going to light it, McCausland said. But his friends urged him to stop.

“Apparently, he thought that was a great idea,” McCausland said. “His friends they thought dissuaded him from doing it, and the next thing they knew, he ignited the fireworks and he was killed instantly.”

They’re not called rednecks up there but the effect is the same.

11 thoughts on “Darwin Awards start with “Hold my beer and watch this””

  1. An interesting exercise in sophistry by his brother:

    “Devon was not the kind of person who would do something stupid. He was the kind of person who would pretend to do something stupid to make people laugh,” he said.

    Or, as a real redneck might have put it:

    “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  2. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Well, I imagine his neck was a bit red, at least round the top bit where his head used to be attached.

  3. Not sure if he has any offspring yet at age of 22. He’s not qualified for Darwin if he has any kids.

  4. Interesting to do some sums. Assuming a shell mass of 150g, mortar tube diameter of 75mm 60cm long and target height of around 500ft (160m), it turns out the initial thrust required as it starts to travel up the mortar tube is around 3500 newtons (~350kg force). So, no head left…

  5. Just re-done the calculation taking air drag into account – it has much more effect than I expected. The initial thrust now goes up to around 1.4 tonnes to get up to 500ft! Having fired these mortars in the distant past at the village bonfire night I now have more respect for the cardboard mortar tubes we were supplied with!

  6. BiCR: 0.5. There’s a graph I found on a NASA website of Cd for a sphere vs Reynolds no, but it’s pretty flat at 0.5 in the range of R (around 250k) that’s relevant. Air density is standard atmosphere at sea level. I wrote a Python program to integrate the acceleration from the lifting charge pressure & adjusted the peak pressure (around 360psi) to get the final height of 160m. I refined it to allow for burn time (about 1ms) & the peak thrust comes down to 1.1 tonnes but that’s still pretty spectacular.

  7. Bloke in Costa Rica

    OK, cool. Of course you have to assume purely vertical acceleration otherwise the equations for x and y velocity are coupled and not soluble analytically.

  8. Yes, it was straight up. I used numerical integration (Simpson’s rule), and it wouldn’t be too hard to extend it to an angled tube. Thrust & drag would give the acceleration along the velocity vector but gravity would only affect the y component. Once out of the tube thrust drops to zero anyway.
    Fun facts: the peak thrust is 818 microseconds after ignition and the peak acceleration is 7400g. The shell leaves the tube after 6ms with a velocity of 133m/s. The initial atmospheric drag decelerates it at about 17g once out of the tube!

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