Some of Roland Sweet’s greatest hits of 2005:
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
Former first lady Barbara Bush declared that many victims of Hurricane Katrina are better off than they were before the storm. After touring the Astrodome, where many New Orleans residents were relocated after being rescued, she said, “So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.
Mensa Rejects of the Year
A 55-year-old man in Taiwan died and four others were poisoned after drinking a popular soft drink that had been laced with cyanide, even though it was clearly labeled, “I am poisonous. Please do not drink.” Police said that the victims read the warning but assumed that it was a new advertising slogan.
An 82-year-old man in Glen Burnie, Md., locked his keys inside his car in his driveway with the engine running but was tired and went to bed. When he awoke the next morning, the vehicle was still idling, so he used a vacuum cleaner to try to suck out enough gas to stop the engine. A spark from the vacuum’s electric motor ignited the gas, resulting in first- and second-degree burns to 20 percent of his body.
After Jason McClaskey, 25, was engulfed in flames on the porch of his home in Glens Falls, N.Y., police concluded that he set himself on fire using lighter fluid to try to burn off the electronic tracking device that was attached to his ankle when he was convicted of breaking and entering.
When Steven Newell set up an aboveground swimming pool on the lawn of his town house in London, Ontario, police told him that he had to move it because it wasn’t fenced in. He moved the pool, which measured 8-1/4 feet across by 3-1/4 feet deep, to his balcony. Shortly after, he was relaxing in the pool when it fell 12 feet to the ground, taking the balcony with it.
After New York City schoolteacher Wayne Brightly, 38, repeatedly failed his state certification exam, authorities said that he paid a homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him. Stand-in Rubin Leitner, who is 20 years older than Brightly and looks nothing like him, not only passed, but scored so high that state officials became suspicious and summoned Brightly for questioning. Instead of appearing himself, Brightly (black and thin) sent Leitner (white and overweight), who failed to fool anyone.
Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
When the Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith opened in England, Mark Webb. 20, and Shelley Mandiville, 17, decided to perform their own light-saber duel. Authorities in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, said that the pair apparently filled two fluorescent light tubes with gasoline, then lit them. One of the devices exploded, covering Webb and Mandiville with burning fuel and sending them to the hospital in critical condition.
When a truck hauling hay caught fire on an Interstate highway east of Columbus, Ohio, the driver began swerving, figuring that the wind caused by the erratic movement would blow out the fire. Instead, it caused the burning hay to fall off the truck, igniting grass fires along a six-mile stretch of the highway.
Police in Kansas City, Mo., reported that Robbin Doolin, 31, opened the door of her fast-moving car and tumbled out onto the busy highway, then hopped up and chased her car as it careened down an embankment toward a construction site. “I leaned out to spit,” she told police after being treated for leg, arm and head injuries, “and I leaned too far.
In Benton, Ark., Stinson Bailey, 63, got permits from the city to demolish a building, but he became frustrated because sledgehammers were taking too long. He decided that it would be easier to burn the building down. The blaze wound up destroying three unoccupied buildings. “I would’ve been all right,” Bailey insisted after his arrest, “if the wind hadn’t changed.
If It Isn’t Steroids, It’s Coleslaw
The Korean Baseball Association (KBO) banned players on its eight professional teams from putting frozen cabbage under their caps. The ruling came after Doosan Bears pitcher Park Myung-hwan’s cap fell off during a game, revealing cabbage leaves, which Park said his wife recommended “to cool my head.” KBO officials declared that cabbage is a distraction and cannot be considered part of the standard baseball uniform.
Curses, Foiled Again
When Vicky Siles of New Haven, Ind., received a check for $1 from the Globe Life and Accident Co., she changed the amount to $4 million. Instead of taking the check to a bank to deposit, Siles took it to a check-cashing store and asked for the full amount in cash. Never having seen a check for $4 million, the clerk called the insurance company, which told him that the check was bogus.
Floyd Elliott, 22, of Independence, Mo., reported that two men attacked him in the parking lot of his apartment complex, cut him in the stomach, branded him with a hot knife and tried to carve the word “Fag” on his forehead. Police charged him with filing a false report, however, when they noticed that the head carving was backwards, as if done while looking into a mirror.