The Worst Way to Die (probably)

As morbid as it sounds, I’ve often thought about the worst possible way to die. I mean, I’m kind of an absent-minded loaf, so sometimes I reflect on close calls and stupid decisions in my own life that could’ve resulted in my death.

  • I once jumped off a friend’s roof and kneed myself in the face—that could’ve been a nose through my brain.
  • I once changed lanes on the highway and was struck in the driver-side headlight with a large piece of plywood that had flown off the back of some guy’s truck—that could’ve been a piece of material right to the face.
  • My brothers and I used to play a game called “Dumbass” that was clearly inspired by the television show “Jackass” and we would push each other around in a wheelbarrow and run into stuff.

Anyway, even though I’ve had some pretty dastardly fantasies (I guess it keeps me kind of young), none of my fantasies will ever rival the real way David Allen Kirwan died.

In the early afternoon hours on July 20, 1981, Kirwan, his friend Ronald Ratliff, and dog Moosie were visiting the Yellowstone hot springs. After parking at the Yellowstone Fountain Paint Pot parking lot, Moosie, a large breed dog, ran excitedly and jumped into the nearby hot spring known as the Celestine Pool. He began yelping immediately.

Kirwan, not using his best judgement, jumped into the hot spring headfirst after Moosie, amidst the protests of local bystanders who told him not to jump into the hot spring. Reportedly, Kirwan had yelled back at the naysayers, “Like hell I won’t!”

A hot spring reaches somewhere between 185-205 degrees Fahrenheit, which is in the neighborhood of boiling in Yellowstone National Park. The Celestine Pool was around 202 degrees, reportedly. Kirwan didn’t make it to the dog and was actually submerged in the hot spring at one point before his friend Ratliff helped pull him out and onto land.

“That was stupid. How bad am I? That was a stupid thing I did,” Kirwan said, his eyes white from boiling in their sockets.

Snopes reported, “Kirwan was indeed in very bad shape. He was blind, and when another park visitor tried to remove one of his shoes, his skin (which was already peeling everywhere) came off with it. He sustained third-degree burns to 100% of his body, including his head, and died the following morning at a Salt Lake City hospital.”

Some reports claim that Moosie did not survive either, and had completely disintegrated, “with its fatty oils causing small eruptions in the hot springs for several days.”

Though it was a terrible thing that happened, Kirwan had been right about one thing: it was a very stupid thing to do, because ever since I read about his death, I have had a hard time sleeping.