Death and dying are natural parts of life, something that all people unfortunately must go through. Sometimes people die in memorable ways that leave an impression on the people around them. This piece details many memorable ways that people pass away. This piece isn't for the faint of heart, as it details some particularly sensitive and otherwise painful details. Content has been edited for clarity.
"Did not happen to me but my coworker in the morgue.
When bodies are fresh there is a lot of gas build up which makes them groan, sigh, fart, burp and even move. So this body suddenly moved by itself just as he passed it and slapped him on the behind. His response, 'Well I guess even dead people want me after all.'
Also it sometimes sounded like they were knocking from the inside of the fridges which is pretty creepy when you're not used to it."
"I worked in a funeral home for a while. It wasn’t exactly an 'impressive' death in the sense it would qualify for a Darwin Award or anything, but there was one guy who was absolutely trashed after partying in the city. His friends stopped on the side of a major highway for him to puke and he got hit by a taxi. We received his body and he had a perfect impression of a Ford logo along with part of the grille from the taxi that hit him on his upper thigh. Never will forget that."
"In my early days as a first responder, there was a rural area and we were the first on scene. I responded to a multi vehicle accident where a man had been decapitated, I got in the passenger side, and saw that his head was hanging on by a few tendons on the right side, without thinking I grabbed his head and tried to 'put it back on.' I don't know why. In retrospect, I think I saw something that wasn't right and instinct told me 'this goes here.' The old timers laughed and teased me a few times. One of them pulled me aside and told me, 'It's not the first time someone's done that. It won't be the last.' I have heard of other people doing similar things but haven't personally witnessed it."
"An in-law of mine used to be a medical examiner/pathologist for the city of Newark, NJ. While there was no shortage of violent death there, the most impressive was when motorcyclists would commit 'failure to fly' off of the NJ Turnpike Extension, an elevated roadway over Bayonne and Jersey City. They would take the road way too fast, not be able to take a curve, strike the edge, and launch themselves into the air... then splat."
"I saw a guy come in for autopsy in multiple bags, he was under the influence and hit by a train. The impressive part was that somehow they found his intact brain a significant distance away from his other body parts. His skull had come apart in such a way that his brain kept accelerating and flew out and landed on the ground. "
"When I was aged 18 to 20, I did body removals for funeral homes. The looks people gave seeing a young woman riding front seat in a hearse were hilarious! So were the ones throwing the evil eye our way.
Anyways, we went to one of the local ERs to pick up a gentleman who was killed in a terrible accident. He had gone alone to some nearby property he owned to do some maintenance on some of the trees. He was on a ladder fairly high up, using a chainsaw. The chainsaw hit a knot in the tree, causing the chainsaw to kick back. He must have been cutting above his head, because when the saw kicked, it ended up swinging out and back, hitting him in the back of his head, cutting/shattering his skull in that spot, and damaging his brain with both the saw and bone. He fell out of the tree. After all that, he was still alive. He died from blood loss. One of his sons found him after the man didn't come home and that son went looking for his dad."
"Funeral director here. One of the deaths my boss had a few years back, Not really a 'dumb' death but certainly impressive. There was a guy who jumped off a building and landed straight on his feet, which caused his legs to literally be pushed through his skull."
"I'm a mortician. We had an older lady, maybe mid 60's, who looked like a beautiful, youthful 40 year old from the chest up, and like Frankenstein's monster below that. I'm talking numerous heavy scars all over, misshapen areas of her torso, lots of discoloration and fluid build up. She looked like she had been attacked by a lawnmower and crudely stapled back together. Come to find out she was really into plastic surgery, and even though she had an expensive, well recommended surgeon things started to go wrong. She got infections, her body wasn't responding well to the surgeries, and every procedure done to fix the previous one just went worse. They pretty much turned her into a living meat puzzle.
Another case involved a seemingly healthy middle aged guy had a heart attack and passed away early one morning. His wife and adult kids came in that afternoon to make arrangements. A few hours later at home, while her family was eating dinner, she went to lay down, had a heart attack of her own and passed away. So we ended up picking up both the husband and the wife at the same time, and no those greedy vultures didn't offer the family a discount on the removals."
"As a firefighter I was called out to a crematorium. Three panicky well dressed people met us at the back door where light smoke was coming out. They were the funeral director and 2 other employees there and had been attempting to load a woman into the crematorium but the thin board they had her on broke and the couldn't get her all the way inside.
The oven was set at 1,600 and it had currently about 900 and rising. The body was half in and they couldn't get her in to shut the door. The top half of her was sizzling and charing and smoking a little.
We used some pike poles under the broken particle board they apparently use to roll them in with and managed to finish sliding her in and get the door closed.
I expected it to really stink but it smelled like steak just pulled off the grill. Maybe her hair had already burned up before I got there so I was only smelling cooking meat."
"I’m a medical death investigator, basically a forensic investigator that works at a medical examiners office and only investigates death. There was this shut in who had been dead for a month and melted into his couch, I decided the best course of action was to just spill him into my transport bag, when that happened his head (basically a skeleton by this point) fell off and rolled behind the couch due to insect infestation eating his neck away.
There was the woman who lived in a trailer and lit a charcoal grill for heat, ended up killing herself and her two dogs by accident due to carbon monoxide.
Then there was the foot that was found at a train yard. Turns out it belonged to some homeless guy in another state who was riding the rails. Somehow it got cut off, he fell off the train and lived while his lil piggies kept going and ended up in my state a few days later. Those are just my cases, I dunno if my coworkers had anything weird.
As far as past ones; I used to work in Lancaster, PA and there was the father/farmer who ran accidentally over his kid with one of those huge corn combines while he was harvesting the corn. Kid went up and out the tube out the side and we had to transport him with buckets.
Last year I had a woman who lived in a huge mansion but was a hoarder. She ended up dying in her bathtub after taking too many sleeping pills. The water hot and the jets were on for about 2 weeks before someone finally found the soup. I had to open up the tub drain with a BBQ spatula that I found. Drained the tub and ended up having to remove her in pieces because she just fell apart.
I had a call for a body stuffed and dumped into a big Tupperware container in the beginning of the year. This older woman folded up, placed way out in the woods and set on fire. Get called out, start taking pictures and making my way to the decedent. Found some clothes, looking for a wallet to see if there’s and ID, nothing yet. Start taking pics of the body and container. Half a dozen detectives, county forensics, 10+ patrolman, all surrounding me as I’m about to touch the body. I feel the hand and instantly something is wrong. I figured maybe she’d been burnt or exposed to the elements so she felt weird. I touch her hand again to see if she’s in rigor and all, but this time I squeeze. Latex. Some real sick weirdo stuffed a real doll into a Tupperware container and dumped it. The collective sigh/uproarious laughter that followed was incredible."
"A NYC coroner recalled a story about a man who was in a fight and got thrown down a manhole.
Problem was, a steam line had burst in the tunnel and he started screaming in pain the minute he fell. By the time EMT's got there? Super dead. When she dissected him, he was dry on the inside because he had just been cooked. Skin lobster red, organs firm and cooked and just...gross.
The thermometer they used only went to a certain temp, but his body maxed out the thermometer and they couldn't get a read on how hot he actually became."
"Someone calling 'Help!' and banging on the door of the morgue from the inside. The door had been rigged to stay shut from the outside.
No zombies, it was a very alive and very terrified woman. The housekeeping staff were hazing a newbie who was terrified of bodies."
"I was a medic, and now I work in organ donation; in no particular order these are the wildest deaths I've seen:
A guy boat-racing got flung during crash, half-decapitated by the wooden racing boat rotor on the competitors boat in front of him.
A bombing victim who was in the wrong place wrong time.
A woman who made love with her partner on Valentine’s Day with a bad heart. I opened the bag and the only thing she had on was a huge grin.
An older, seasoned truck driver of many decades was driving his personal vehicle on a rare day off and was t boned and killed by a rookie truck driver.
Some guy reversed a big caterpillar vehicle down an elevator shaft on a building being constructed, sadly he wasn’t killed by the fall but from the way he was crushed he slowly suffocated.
A pre teen girl took part in a 'choking game' contest... and won.
This young trucker driving a big rig was texting and driving, drifted into oncoming lane and hit another big rig head on. His balls were completely exploded and pelvis/femurs shattered from the wheel. Feet totally intact but hanging on by a thread- expensive steel toe boots did their job!"
"I'm a paramedic. Hangings are always very eerie scenes. They somehow seem staged, cinematic, unreal. And it’s odd what sticks in your memory. Like how neatly they placed their slippers beside the ladder, or how rough the knot is. Hangings often extend the neck in an inhuman way. We had to cut down a guy who hanged himself in his garage, nothing overly special. Except his neck had stretched, and I mean a good 10/12 inches. I had made a comment about him looking like a giraffe, the police officer beside me said, 'More like a Brontosaurus.'"
"The first time I touched a dead body, I went with a fellow healthcare assistant to perform last offices (washing the body, putting them in a shroud and moving them into a body bag). The family had stayed for quite a long time after death and nobody had thought to lower the head of the bed. So when we went to put the bed flat, the body stayed in a propped up position despite the lack of support. Having to roll someone around who was stuck in a V shape wasn't the best introduction to handling dead bodies and the porters gave us a funny look when they came to pick the body up."
"In my spouse's hometown I think 2 or 3 decades ago, there was a death so absurd everybody still talks about. A railway crossing on a highway was poorly paved, and super bumpy to drive over. Town worker was transporting a manhole cover in the back of a pickup truck. The workers didn't tie the manhole over down because a manhole cover is way too heavy to blow away right? But by some fluke, the way the car hit those rails at 110kph caused the truck to bounce, and the manhole cover flew up in the air with tremendous force. It had enough momentum to smash through the side of the school bus passing the opposite direction, giving a child a fatal injury.
So always tie down your load.
Since I'm at it I can give you some of the stories told to me on industrial construction gigs, though thank goodness I never witnessed a work fatality personally.
Good buddy of mine once was up a few stories high in a refinery. There were open catwalks so you can see everywhere. He saw a pair of young apprentices at his height on a nearby structure, pretending to have a sword fight with these knives used to cut hard insulation (kinda like a steak knives but twice as big). Both kids lunged forward at the same time, and one kid's chest made friends with the other kid's knife. The stabbed kid started to run for the stairs, it was almost like he figured out that if he got to the office and got first aid he'd be ok I guess. But his heart must have been stabbed because he went white and collapsed dead just a couple steps into his flight. Since the building and the first aid kit weren't connected my buddy was close enough to see the kid go down but about ten minutes from actually reaching the kid, he felt so helpless. I'm sure the kid who didn't die strongly wished to trade places with the one who did.
Another case of two young apprentices messing around, a dude got a jug of water poured on him. He found a room that was very warm with strong airflow, perfect for drying off. Except it was part of, if I recall correctly the cooling system in a power plant. When a certain process kicked in , it was hot like a sauna and breezy like a strong natural wind. But when the process kicked in, it was a lot hotter and the airflow a lot stronger than the apprentice first thought. This room automatically locked to prevent anyone from entering during the dangerous phase, and the engineers never considered that somebody would try to dry off in the room. Since dude was in there already, that 'safety' feature trapped him. Nobody knew where he was, but they figured maybe he went home since he had gotten all wet. They found him the next day mummified.
Lessons to be learned: The boss doesn't ban horseplay just to spoil your fun. Horseplay brings needless risks. Don't do it. And never mess with equipment you don't fully understand. And always tell someone where you are going."
"My mom was a paramedic for fifteen years and once had to do a body recovery for two teenage girls on a full moon walking through waist high grass and fog while their wrecked van played uninvited by Alanis Morrisette when she was a paramedic. she says it was one of the most unsettling moments of her career."
"The most messed up was a man who threw himself into the tracks of a local train. The wheel of the train crushed the middle of his body and he was basically certain to die as soon as the train moved and his injuries we're going to pour out all his blood. The poor guy immediately regretted what he'd done, and he was still alive while the train was on him..it was the strangest thing seeing this guy talking to first responders -- he must have been in shock but was surprisingly coherent. He basically dictated a suicide note for his wife to police after the Emergency medical technitions basically told him as soon as the train moved it was going to tear him apart fully and kill him. This man did it in the way an executive might dictate a memo -- very little emotion."
"My Dad used to be the guy who picked up the bodies and took them to the morgue/ funeral home. His 'most impressive' was this guy who got his steering wheel through his chest. Guy was actually still alive when my Dad got to the scene. He was called by a doctor who happened to be stuck in the traffic caused by said wreck, and came to render final aid. It was pure shock that was keeping the guy alive. And the fact that the steering column was holding everything in place. The doctor ended up pulling the guy out of the car, which killed him rather instantly. He hates talking about that story."
"German backpacker in Australia was doing some work on a farm to make some money.
He accidentally stepped on a crop harvester blade and as he was reaching to free his foot, he cut up his hands.
He left the wounds untreated ,worked in muddy conditions, swamps, swam in livestock ponds etc... He had both hands removed, and his foot since the infection tracked to his lungs , and he ultimately died.He had no mates in Australia, not one person ever visited him. It would’ve been less stupid if he had been shredded up by the crop harvester, especially considering the farm he worked on had a medical, and a veterinary clinic only a few minutes away."
"I've dissected a lot of cadavers and one time this guys brain was completely necrosed. Idk why the brain didn't preserve but my guess was it was part of his cause of death. BTW the brain turns to liquid when it dies (liquifactive necrosis). We scooped out handfuls of watery gray refried bean brains and had to just leave it in his tub with him until he got cremated.
Also one time a lady had chronic lung problems that caused her heart to essentially work in overdrive to compensate. Over a long period of time the heart grew (just like any other muscle that is worked) and this 110 pound lady ended up with a heart the size of a cantaloupe. But organs always have weird anomalies."