5 Huge Disasters Caused By Idiots
Whether to impress a sexy person (or just because we really wanted that special-edition dabbing Minion from the claw machine at the bowling alley), we've all done dumb things for dumb reasons. Still, the worst that happened is an embarrassing conversation with an emergency medical responder. It's unlikely our idiotic actions caused catastrophe on a city-wide, industry-wide, or even global scale. The same can't be said for the fallout when ...
A Nuclear Disaster Was Traced Back To Some Morons Who Thought Cesium Looked Cool
In 1985, a chemotherapy clinic in Goiania, Brazil moved offices, leaving behind an outdated cesium-based radioactive device. Already, we're not off to a great start: leaving radioactive materials just lying around is a fairly major no-no. Since the building was left abandoned, it soon became a popular squat for homeless people living on the outskirts of the city. Think you know where this is going? We promise, you don't.
On September 13, 1987, two scavengers entered the former treatment room of the clinic and stole the lead cylinder of the cesium device, hoping it was worth something. There was only one problem, as far as they were concerned: they couldn't get the thing open. They also suddenly started feeling extremely ill, but they were determined to dismantle the device. Finally, they managed to crack open the cesium capsule and immediately started scooping out the glowing blue substance they found inside. If you know this kind of person, we probably don't have to tell you that they tried to light it on fire.
Having done all the cool things they could think to do with the device's contents, they took it to someone even dumber than them: their local junkyard owner, who paid them for its scrap metal. After he noticed the glowing blue stuff, he invited all his friends and family to come look and even let them take some of it home. One of them let his six-year-old daughter use it like body glitter. By the time the authorities figured out what happened, four people were dead and hundreds more had simply suffered huge doses of radiation. Those two original scavengers? They both required amputations. Hopefully, it was worth whatever the junkyard owner paid them.
A Broker Threw The Oil Industry Into Turmoil On A Drunken Whim
Go easy on yourself the next time you drunkenly text your ex; at least you didn't screw up a global industry. That's what Steve Perkins did when he got home after a multi-day bender in June 2010, texted his employer that a sick relative would unfortunately keep him out of the office that day, and then bought seven million barrels of oil.
The stock market is equal parts graphs and magic, so we're not even going to try to explain how Perkins's blackout boo-boo pushed the price of a barrel of oil up by almost $2. We can tell you, because smarter people told us, that while that might not seem like a lot, it usually takes a war to see that kind of change. It didn't take long to sort that out, but the company on whose behalf Perkins bought the oil, PVM Oil Futures, needed considerably more coddling. He'd spent $520 million of their money to buy the oil, creating losses of $10 million for the company because, again, finances are wizardry. They were pretty grumpy about that, considering they only brought in $12 million of annual income.
When his li'l oopsie was discovered, Perkins was fined, legally banned from trading stocks for five years, and treated to what was hopefully one hell of a "you're fired" speech. He was then immediately hired by a commodities firm in Geneva to train new brokers because a white guy in a suit has to physically dodge job offers on his way home from the corruption store.
A Man Burned Down A City Trying To DIY A Sword
On all the best Discovery Channel shows, the hosts always say the same thing before they do something cool: "Kids, don't try this at home!" Apparently, they need to send a memo to adults as well, because John Gomes of Cohoes, New York didn't see any way building a makeshift barrel-forge in his backyard to make a sword could go wrong.
On November 30, 2017, Gomes was inspired by an episode of Forged in Fire on the History Channel to forswear the inflated prices of his local mall sword store and make his own. Sure, he didn't have any of the equipment to do it, but what he did have was an apartment with a backyard and a steel barrel in it, and that's just as good, right? Unfortunately, it was a rather windy afternoon and he couldn't get the fire hot enough, so he moved the barrel closer to the building. The steel barrel full of fire. To the wood structure. Because it was windy.
Obviously, the building caught on fire, and because of that stubborn wind, it quickly spread across town. In the end, 28 buildings were destroyed or damaged, and the resulting cloud of smoke was so dense and massive that it appeared on the radar of the National Weather Service. Miraculously, no one was hurt, but a lot of businesses and families were left homeless, so Gomes's neighbors had plenty of reason to be salty. He pled down to a year in jail and more than $620,000 in restitution, so now he really can't afford a sword.
A Woman Wanted To "Help" Her "Bored" Firefighter Friends
In 2019, Sadie Renee Johnson was a 23-year-old Oregon woman who just wanted to help her friends. They happened to be firefighters, and they were starting to find the long shifts sitting around the firehouse tedious. Johnson interpreted this as "Please start a fire for us."
When she subsequently threw some fireworks out the window of a moving car into the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, she only meant to cause a little fire. You know, just a quick spray job to break up the monotony. But the fireworks lit up the brush along the roadside and expanded northwest, and soon, 51,480 acres of brush and timber were burning. It caused an estimated $7.9 million in damage and took the firefighters more than a month to fully put out the fire. (Their monkey's paw has yet to be located.)
Even though her plan hadn't gone quite as she'd hoped, Johnson resolved to look on the blindingly bright side. After two days, she took to Facebook, asking her friends "Like my fire?" because she wasn't just gonna not take credit for getting her brawny hero friends off their lazy asses. Unfortunately, Johnson's foresight isn't as strong as her can-do spirit, and the Facebook post left little room for interpretation to the police. She was ordered to spend 18 months in prison and pay restitution of at least $50 a month until she's paid the full price of the damages, which would take over 13,000 years. Just a lifelong, $50-per-month obnoxiousness tax.
A Man Flooded An Entire City To Prevent His Wife From Getting Home
James Scott of Quincy, Illinois lived to party, but his wife was just, like, totally cramping his style, man. One day in 1993, according to his friends, he decided to get rid of the broad, at least temporarily. Having spent some time volunteering on the levees that held back the tempestuous Mississippi River, he knew it would only take a few misplaced sandbags and tarps to put a wall of water between him and the Missouri truck stop where his wife was working and buy himself a few days of freedom. He wasn't wrong.
And he would have been able to enjoy them if he'd just kept his mouth shut. He immediately showed up on the TV news claiming that he'd been working on the levees when he noticed the breach and tried to stop it. He's stuck by that story, but authorities couldn't help but notice that he looked awfully clean for a man who'd supposedly been mucking about in the Mississippi. Their suspicions deepened when they found out the point where the levee broke, which had been inspected and declared safe only two hours before the incident, was considered its strongest point. When Scott's friends told them that he'd later bragged about causing the flood, those suspicions hit seabed. Scott was swiftly arrested, becoming the only person ever convicted in Missouri for intentionally causing a catastrophe. He and his wife are now divorced.
Top Image: Dawn Armfield/Unsplash