#3. The "Cool" Teacher Explodes Her Classroom
No matter where you went to school, chances are that at some point during your academic career you had that one teacher who prided him- or herself on being the "cool" one. Whether it was the English teacher who always tried (and miserably failed) to incorporate the latest teen slang into her lessons or the chemistry teacher who left a flaming bag of dog poo outside the algebra teacher's classroom as an "experiment," every school seems to have a teacher whose foremost goal is to earn the acceptance of people half his or her age.
At Western Reserve Academy, that teacher was Julie Pratt. Pratt taught chemistry, and she was easily the most lenient teacher at the uptight boarding school, leaving things like homework and strict grading to those other squares on the faculty. One of her students reported that Pratt never had them wear aprons or protective goggles for lab work, since they were "geeky-looking."
"If we pull out of the experiment before we finish, it's just as safe."
During one demonstration, Pratt had her 11-year-old son set four dishes containing different salts on fire so the students could see how each of them produced a different color flame. But the last dish wasn't producing an impressive enough display, and Pratt was not about to have that uncool bullshit in her classroom. So she grabbed a huge jug of wood alcohol and (we assume) told the students who had gathered around her desk to "hold on to their butts."
It doesn't take a fancy chemistry degree to know that methanol plus open flame is the equation for A Very Bad Thing. The jug exploded into a 4-foot-wide ball of fire and stupidity, with students Cecilia Chen and Calais Weber taking the brunt of the explosion. Pratt heroically grabbed the classroom's only fire blanket and used it on her son, then told the rest of the students to haul ass out of there -- leaving Chen and Weber to fend for themselves.
Remember, kids, No Child Left Behind only applies to test scores.
The students would eventually be awarded a hefty settlement for their life-changing injuries, having spent years and countless surgeries to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Meanwhile, Pratt went right back to being the coolest teacher at Western Reserve Academy.
#2. Water-Powered Jet Pack Takes a Dive
If you watch local news shows, you're familiar with what they call the lead-in -- it's the mini-story at the opening of the show designed to grab your attention before they get to the actual news.
During the 2011 San Diego Yacht and Boat Show, a man named John was showing off his new toy, a water-powered jet pack called the Jetlev-Flyer, and reporter Matt Johnson of the FOX 5 San Diego Morning News team saw it as an opportunity for the perfect lead-in. A massive audience for John, a perfect opener for Matt's show -- it was a win-win!
It all starts out swimmingly. Matt makes a flawless introduction and hands the mic over to John to kick off the show. To give him credit, John does manage to get his line out ("It starts right now!") as he launches himself directly toward Matt, who somehow manages to keep his professional news guy smile plastered on his face even as he's about to take a water-rocket to the sternum.
This is exactly how Walter Cronkite's career got started.
The camera quickly zooms out to capture John's triumphant Superman-esque launch into the sky, but instead he pulls an Aquaman straight into the San Diego Harbor.
Cut to the desk anchors, who are in the middle of having the exact same reaction as all the viewers at home:
Fortunately for John, the news team was able to stop snickering for long enough to cut back to him and let him show how the Jetlev-Flyer allowed him to whip around like an aquatic James Bond before continuing with the show. If you've always dreamed of having the ability to perform a jet-assisted belly flop on TV, you can get one of your very own for the bargain price of about a hundred grand.
#1. Captain's Ego Topples a Cruise Liner
Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia, is a man known to have a weakness for beautiful women and a tendency to abandon the bridge during dangerous, illegal maneuvers that he himself ordered.
And also for being far too sexy for top buttons.
We're guessing you already know how this story ends: During a cruise in January of 2012, the Costa Concordia was following its usual route along the coast of Isola del Giglio, an island off the coast of Tuscany. But the captain wasn't content with simply floating by at a safe distance from the shoals -- oh no, he wanted to impress the islanders with his magnificent ship. So our gallant captain ordered his crew to make a close sweep of the island, blasting off the ship's whistle as they went by for the benefit of the tourists ashore.
And while his crew was busy putting his ship in mortal danger, Schettino was reportedly busy having dinner with a female acquaintance, presumably bragging about the dangerous captaining he was performing even as he (sexily) slurped up his appetizer.
Well, unless you managed to completely avoid every major news outlet around the time of the incident, you remember exactly how that worked out:
Captain Schettino later claimed that he was "totally banking that shit."
Yeah, it turns out that islands tend to have stuff like reefs and rocks close to shore. Who knew? And those rocks are apparently just itching to pull a Titanic on any ship with a captain brave enough to maneuver too close.
So those asshole rocks went and spoiled the good captain's dinner by ripping a gaping 50-yard gash in the hull. After the initial impact, an officer told the passengers that they were only experiencing a minor electrical problem and that there were totally not thousands of gallons of seawater currently flooding into the lower compartments. But after it became clear that the ship was indeed royally fucked, Schettino sprang into action and did what any heroic captain would do under the circumstances: He got his ass into a lifeboat while there were still hundreds of passengers on board and refused to return to his post even after being repeatedly ordered to "stop being such an asshole" by the Italian Port Authority.