Death. It’s not a pretty subject by any means and it’s certainly never funny. Sometimes, no matter how bad a situation might be, you’ve just got to wonder, especially when the deaths that befell these extremely unlucky people were as ridiculous, unforeseen and, in some cases, horrifically ironic as they were. Whether it was something they did or said, or if they just were very, very unlucky, these people all suffered from strange ends; ends that make you wonder if fate just had it out for all of them. These deaths are certainly shocking; pioneers in their field killed by the very same thing that they devoted their lives to. And there are some that are just plain unlucky, wrong place, wrong time or just a moment of carelessness that cost them dearly in the end.
Take a look at our list to see some people that died in very ironic ways;
10 Colonel Pierpoint (1864)
We start our list on the streets of Victorian London. With the motor car being 22 years away, people had to stick to horses, carriages and, if all else failed, walking. As you can imagine, the Green Cross Code was not around back then, so crossing the road was a pretty hazardous affair. This bothered Colonel Pierpoint (first name unknown), who owned a club on Piccadilly street in the district of St. James. He found it rather troublesome to get to and from his establishment without endangering his life, so, at his own expense, created what would become London’s first ever traffic island. What could and should have been a momentous occasion was sadly mired by what happened next – the colonel stepped back from the island to admire his club, was struck by a passing taxi and later died.
9 Frank Hayes (1923)
Whilst not ironic, this next death is both strange and memorable. Frank Hayes was actually a horse trainer, not a jockey, and had never won a race until he mounted a 20-1 outsider called Sweet Kiss on 4th June 1923. The race, a steeplechase in Belmont Park, New York State, meant so much to Hayes that he lost 12 pounds in order to fit the weight requirements, which, considering he was only 142 pounds to start with, can explain what happened next. Sweet Kiss came home to win the whole race, which left the owner so excited she rushed down to congratulate Hayes. However, whilst the owner was dead pleased, Frank was, well, just dead. It was theorized that, about halfway through the race, Frank had suffered a fatal heart attack. Whether it was the weight loss or just the pure excitement of being in first place, we’ll never know, but, this accident lead to Frank Hayes earning a spot in equestrian history – he is the only jockey to have won a race after his death.
8 William Huskisson (1830)
Huskisson was an influential figure in the Industrial Revolution and expansion of the British Empire that occurred during Queen Victoria’s reign of England. He was a noted statesman and MP, who would often finance projects in his constituencies with his own money. Nice chap. However, it would be one of his projects that would be his undoing. Huskisson was a prominent figure in the creation of the Liverpool-Manchester railway and, when the line first opened on September 15th, 1830, many aboard the train were important dignitaries. When the train stopped for water, Huskisson left the train to greet the then-Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington. Once close friends, Huskisson and the Duke had had a falling out some years prior in a dispute over government reform and Huskisson was desperate to make up for it. So, when the Duke’s private train also stopped, Huskisson stepped out onto the tracks, hand outstretched, in an attempt to win favour with the PM. Sadly, in his rush, he missed that the Rocket, the world’s first steam engine, was careering towards him. Huskisson tried to climb out of the way of the train, but had his leg crushed as the Rocket ran him over. He later died of his injuries.
7 Garry Hoy (1993)
Hoy worked as a lawyer for the Holden Day Wilson firm in Toronto, Canada and took proving a point to a whole new level. He was with a group of students at a party at the Toronto-Dominion Centre (headquarters of the Toronto-Dominion Bank) and attempted to prove that glass in the glass wall of the 24th floor was unbreakable. See where this is going? In a stunt he’d apparently pulled off many times before, Hoy flung himself at the glass wall, hoping to bounce straight off. However, the widow frame holding the glass in place came loose and plunged Garry 24 floors to his death. What was particularly stupid about this death was that Hoy had already flung himself against the wall once that night and was unharmed; it was his second attempt that was his demise. So, next time you go out of your way to win a bet, think of Garry Hoy.
6 Clement Vallandigham (1871)
Another case of a lawyer going just a little too far to make a point. Vallandigham was an America politician, most active during the Civil War. He served twice in the House of Representatives, but it was his external activities as a lawyer that would cost him his life. Vallandigham took the case of a bar brawler in Ohio, who was accused of killing a man. Vallandigham claimed that the victim had shot himself in the midst of the fight, a theory that would have proved his client innocent. So, to demonstrate, Vallandigham reacted the events of the fight using an unloaded pistol. At least, he thought it was unloaded. Vallandigham got to the part where the gun went off, which it did, wounding him the abdomen in much the same fashion as the victim of the fight. However, Vallandigham’s death did acquit his client.
5 Charles Rolls (1910)
This death was another case of wrong time wrong place. Charles Rolls was the co-founder of the Rolls-Royce automotive company in the early nineteenth century. Rolls and his partner, Henry Royce, would eventually turn their attention to the world of aviation. Rolls was the second person in Britain licensed to fly in 1903. So, perhaps it was only fitting that Rolls would become the first British man to die in an aviation accident. In July 1910, Rolls’ aircraft suffered damage to the tail, resulting in a fatal crash. His legacy in aviation lives on, with many major aircraft manufacturers using Rolls-Royce engines and parts to this day, but it is still slightly ironic that one of the world’s pioneering aviators should also be the first Briton to be killed in a plane crash.
4 Marie Curie (1934)
The story of Marie Curie’s death is one of the go-to ironic demises. Curie was a pioneering researcher into the world of radiation and nuclear studies. With her husband, Pierre, she founded numerous institutions dedicated to studying radioactivity, discovered two chemical elements (and had a third named after her) and became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Even to this day she is the only woman to have won it twice. Perhaps it was inevitable then that a woman who spent most of her time around radioactive materials would eventually die of a disease caused by that radiation. Curie’s work on everything from the atom to X-rays makes her one of the most influential women, and indeed human beings, of the 20th century and her legacy continues to this day with the work done by the amazing people at the Marie Curie Cancer Trust. A wonderful woman.
3 Bobby Leach (1926)
A real life daredevil. A renowned adventurer and showman, Leach became the first male (and second person) to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The fall however, was not what killed him. Despite breaking his jaw and both his knee caps, he continued his escapades, trying on numerous occasions to swim the rapid whirlpools of the falls and every time needed rescuing. Still, it would not be a swimming mishap that would force Leach to shuffle off his mortal coil. His death came in 1926, whilst in New Zealand on a publicity tour. So, what was it that eventually did the great daredevil in? Shark attack? Gunfight? No. In fact, Bobby Leach died of gangrene from an infected leg two months after... slipping on an orange peel. Yep, he really couldn’t have been more unlucky if he tried. Never underestimate the humble citrus fruit I guess.
2 Jimi Heselden (2010)
Jimi Heselden rose to fame and fortune as the inventor of a flood defense system, but drew public attention when he acquired Segway Inc., producers of the famous mobility devices. The irony in this death came in the very same year. On September26th , 2010, Heselden was piloting a Segway device when he lost control and plunged 80 feet into the River Wharfe, West Yorkshire, UK. Whether he was a Segway enthusiast before buying the company or got into the devices afterwards, Heselden’s death is extremely ironic. However, with an Order of the British Empire (OBE) and a fortune of over £340 million (approx. $514 million) to his name at the time of his death, Heselden did pretty well for himself.
1 John Sedgewick (1864)
Military men are in one of the most dangerous professions in the world, so death would be no stranger to this final entrant. However, General John Sedgewick of the Union Army (US Civil War) perhaps may have regretted saying a few things before he met his end. Sedgewick died on May 9th, 1864 in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House; a death that was met with great sadness and disappointment on the side of the South. He was the highest ranking casualty of the War and, when news broke of his death, Northern Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant reportedly kept asking “Is he really dead?” Whilst a soldier dying in battle is not that unusual or ironic, it is what he is reported to have said moments before his demise that earns him a place on this list. After watching some of his staff ducking and hiding from enemy sniper fire, Sedgewick is reported to have said something along the lines of “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance”. Moments later (accordingly), he was shot just under the left eye and killed instantly by one of the opposition snipers.