As you would probably expect, probing through the internet one can find many lists and sites dedicated to people who have suddenly and mysteriously died. This is only normal as in human nature there is a desire to understand the concept of death. We want specific details, so that we can recreate and understand what our loved ones were feeling as they passed. There are certain celebrities, government officials, and historical figures that you would expect to see on this list. People such as JFK, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Jimmy Hoffa, and Heath Ledger make most collections like this. Sometimes I find it a bit redundant because I have already heard everything about these specific cases. I have compiled a list of the circumstances surrounding 10 shocking deaths that you might not have heard of.
10. Owen Hart (1965-1999)
Owen was a Canadian professional wrestler who was a member of the WWF. Hart was the youngest of twelve children, including wrestling star Bret Hart. He was a two-time Intercontinental champion, four-time World Tag Team Champion, and winner of the 1994 King of the Ring. On May 23, 1999 Hart was set to headline the Over the Edge pay-per-view event. To make his entrance Hart was going to propel from the stadium rafters using a harness and rappel line. The original plan was to have Hart become “entangled” in the harness as he reached ring level, then suddenly release himself only to fall on his face for comedic affect. This required him to use a quick release mechanism on the harness. As the stunt was being performed something went horribly wrong and the mechanism was activated when Owen was 78 feet in the air. He fell and landed chest-first on the top rope of the ring and died almost instantly from internal bleeding and blunt chest trauma. It was a complete surprise and utter tragedy. The Hart family sued the WWF for liability and they settled for $18 million dollars.
9. Judith Barsi (1978-1988)
Judith was born in Los Angeles, California to two immigrants who had fled the 1956 Soviet occupation of Hungary. Her mother dreamed of her daughter becoming a successful Hollywood actress. It soon became a reality as Barsi was a bit small for her age and had the advantage of being able to play roles of younger children. This helped propel her career and she soon became a television staple. She starred in over 70 commercials during the 80’s. She often worked with Lays chips and Biz Bleach detergent. She also appeared in numerous television shows and movies. Barsi is probably most famous for lending her voice for the character of Ducky in the film The Land Before Time. She also played Anne-Marie in the animated classic All Dogs Go To Heaven. As Judith became more famous her father gained a deep sense of manic jealously and paranoia towards her. He was mentally and physically abusive throughout her lifetime. On July 27, 1988, Jozsef Barsi took a gun and murdered Judith and her mother. He then dosed the bodies, himself, and the house with gasoline and started a fire. Judith’s grave stone reads “Our Concrete Angel – Yep Yep Yep,” referring to her character Ducky’s catch phrase.
8. Bradley Nowell (1968-1996)
Nowell was raised in Long Beach, California and was an instant guitar hero. Legend claimed that if you played a tune once for Bradley he could mirror the riff down to the last note. In 1988, Bradley founded the group Sublime with bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh. Sublime was an influential band that blended reggae, hip hop, and ska music behind an incredible guitar presence. They really helped to pave the way for the punk rock movement during the 1990’s. After the band’s first two albums, Nowell became frustrated and depressed by the rejection from mainstream record labels. He descended into a two-year heroin “experiment” as he called it. He tried to justify his abuse by claiming that the drugs aided in his artistic creativity. With the launch of the album 40 Oz to Freedom the band was soon signed to a major label, but by that point Nowell had become completely addicted. It got so bad that he took to pawning his guitars for quick cash, only to buy them back later. While on a world tour in 1996 Bradley Nowell was found dead in his bed from an accidental heroin, Valium, and alcohol overdose. Similar to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Bradley Nowell was everything to Sublime, an irreplaceable presence that will be greatly missed.
7. Jessica Dubroff (1988-1996)
Jessica was born in Hercules, California and quickly became enamored with airplanes. She enrolled in piloting classes and became one of the youngest children ever to fly. The 7-year-old decided that she wanted to be the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States. For her attempt, she would be accompanied by her father and flight instructor. It was a national story and labeled the “Sea to Shining Sea Flight.” The plan was to make numerous stops along the way, dividing the voyage into sections. Her flight was constantly followed by news outlets and general supporters. Minutes after taking off from the Cheyenne, Wyoming airport her aircraft crashed in a heavy and sudden rainstorm. Everyone on board was killed. It was concluded that the airplane was overweight and the poor decision to continue with the mission despite the incoming bad weather was the cause of the crash. Her famous last words were recorded “Do you hear the rain, do you hear the rain?” Jessica Dubroff was a true explorer and aviation pioneer. She was a special girl who will greatly be missed.
6. Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1991)
In 1947, India gained its independence. Three years later the Constitution of India was created. The preamble of this constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, and secular republic. Socialism refers to a set of economic theories of social organization promoting collective ownership. During this time the Nehru-Gandhi family took control of the Indian National Congress. Jawaharlal Nehru encouraged his only daughter Indira Gandhi to become active in Congress politics. Indira Gandhi soon became the first female Prime Minister of India. She had two sons Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi. Sanjay greatly influenced his mother’s political decisions. While adhering to its strong socialist policies India was not growing with the rest of the world. The country was being economically isolated. Sanjay died in a plane crash in 1980. In 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her body guards. Upon her death, Rajiv Gandhi became the 9th and youngest Prime Minister of India. He began leading in a direction significantly different from his mother’s socialism; he promoted economic liberalization. He improved bilateral relations with the United States, expanded economic and scientific cooperation, increased support for science and technology industries, and reduced import quotas, taxes, and tariffs on technology-based industries. Sadly, on May 21, 1991 Thenmuli Rajaratnam, a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, strapped a bomb to herself and while she bent down to touch Rajiv’s feet (an expression of respect among Hindus) she detonated a bomb killing him instantly. Since Rajiv’s death India’s economy has become the second fastest growing major economy in the world, creating thousands of jobs and opportunity for the citizens. As of 2009, about 300 million people, equivalent to the population of the entire United States, have escaped extreme poverty because of Rajiv Gandhi and his stance on economic liberalization.
5. Joe Delaney (1958-1983)
Delaney was born in Henderson, Texas and went on to play football at Northwestern State University. He was a two-time All-American selection and was drafted as the 41st pick of the 1981 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Delaney was named the 1981 AFC Rookie of the Year with 1,121 rushing yards. Before Priest Holmes arrived, Delaney held the Kansas City record for most yards in a season (1,121), most yards in a game (193), most consecutive 100-yard games (3), and the most 100-yard games for a season (5). He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. After one contest Hall of Famer, Elvin Bethea, proclaimed, “He is right up there with O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers, and Walter Payton, he is great with a capital G.” On June 29, 1983 Delaney attended Critter’s Creek, which is a local amusement park in Monroe, Louisiana. He warned children not to swim in a watering hole, which had been created by recent construction work and was not for recreation. After hearing screams Joe Delaney dove in the pond and tried to save the life of three children who were being sucked under the water. He was not a skilled swimmer, but had a heart of gold. One child made it out safely, Delaney and the two others drowned. Joe Delaney was truly a special man who will never be forgotten. He had all the intangibles necessary to be one of the greatest NFL running backs in the history of the game.
4. Jeremy Lusk (1984-2009)
Jeremy was born in San Diego, California and early on was completely captivated by bikes. He became a professional motocross rider when he was 19-years-old. With his choice Yamaha YZ 250, Lusk made an instant impact on the sport. Winning numerous competitions as of late, this man was just hitting his true prime. In 2008, he won the gold at the X Games in motocross freestyle and best trick competitions. He was also awarded the bronze helmet at the 2008 Moto X World Championships. On February 7, 2009, Jeremy Lusk was killed while trying to land a “Hart Attack Indian air back flip.” He was performing in a freestyle motocross competition in San Jose, Costa Rica. Lusk had successfully landed the trick before, but it is extremely difficult. He under-rotated the flip which caused his front wheel to strike the landing, subsequently throwing him head-first off the bike. He suffered extreme brain damage and three days after the crash entered into cardiac and respiratory failure. This accident makes it clear just how dangerous motocross sports have become. New rules need to be adopted so that tragedies like this one can be prevented. I would say we owe it to the legacy of Jeremy Lusk.
3. Danny Gans (1956-2009)
Las Vegas, Nevada has become a tourist spectacle. It is one of the fastest growing U.S. cities. Nineteen of the world’s twenty-five largest hotels are found on the Las Vegas Strip. This creates an incredible demand for magic shows, concerts, theatre, and various forms of entertainment. Danny Gans was born in Los Angeles, California and attended Cal Poly University at San Luis Obispo. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, but his baseball career came to a quick end when an opposing player’s cleats tore his Achilles tendon while fielding a ground ball. Gans turned to the entertainment industry, landing small roles in Bull Durham and the CBS miniseries Sinatra. In 1995, he created a comedy show. He was a talented singer and vocal impressionist. It was so good that he was noticed by executives and signed to perform on the Las Vegas Strip. He was billed as “The Man of Many Voices.” In 2000, The Mirage Hotel built The Danny Gans Theatre for him to perform on a nightly basis. He signed a $150 million dollar contract with the company. His show was truly remarkable and he was named “Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year” a record 11 times in a row. On May 1st, 2009 authorities received a phone call claiming that Gans was having trouble breathing. Paramedics attempted to treat an unresponsive Gans when they arrived, but he was declared dead at the scene. When writing this article his cause of death is yet to be released.
2. Bruce Edwards Ivins (1946-2008)
Ivins was a senior biodefense researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases for 18 years. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a PhD in microbiology in 1976. On September 18, 2001 letters containing an active anthrax material were mailed to a variety of news media offices and to two Democratic U.S. Senators. In all, five people were killed and 17 were infected. You can imagine the terror that spread throughout America in the days following the attacks. This was only one week after 9/11 and people were already on edge. Some of the only clues investigators had were two letters mailed that claimed “this is next, take penicillin now, death to America, you can’t stop us, and are you afraid.” Immediately following the attacks government officials announced this to be a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda. In 2002, a report came out that confirmed that the “DNA sequence of the anthrax sent through the U.S. mail in 2001 had bacteria that originally came from a U.S. military laboratory.” A huge investigation pursued and on August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared Bruce Edwards Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime. This puts Ivins up there with some of the worst and most legendary American terrorists of all time. In July of 2008 the FBI did not arrest Ivins, but informed him that he was going to be charged with the crimes. Two-weeks later he committed suicide by overdosing on acetaminophen
1. Samantha Smith (1972-1985)
Samantha was born in Manchester, Maine during a time when the Cold War was an important international issue. In 1982, Yuri Andropov became the new leader of the Soviet Union. Mainstream Western newspapers ran many negative articles about him ultimately claiming that his leadership was a threat to peace between the nations. After Time magazine published an issue with Andropov on the cover, 10-year old Samantha Smith turned to her mother and said “if people are so afraid of him, why doesn’t someone write a letter asking if he wants to have a war or not?” That is what she did, she wrote a letter to the Soviet leader. Her letter was published in a Soviet newspaper and to her surprise she soon received a response from Andropov. A media circus ensued and she instantly became a national celebrity in America and overseas. In 1983, she flew to Moscow with her parents and spent two weeks as Andropov’s guest. Often holding press conferences and proclaiming to the world that Soviets were “just like us.” On August 25, 1985 Samantha and her father were flying home to Maine. Their plane crashed short of the runway and she was killed on impact. She was only 13-years-old. There was an immediate outcry, especially in Russia, with many claiming foul play. This girl has a legacy as one of the youngest and most influential world peace advocates in history.