Everyone's heard of the Darwin Awards.. awards handed out to the dumbest people on the planet who do humanity a favor by taking themselves out of the gene pool. A lot of them are urban legends and tall tales you heard as true by a friend of a friend of a friend. With the rise of the interwebs, these stories spread far and fast. Finally someone took the time to set up a site dedicated to researching the Darwin Awards, confirming that they are true and actually happened.
Most of the stories involve idiots doing supremely stupid things like checking the level of fuel in the tank with a lighter, or other stupendous acts of bravery and stupidity. In order to win a Darwin Award, you pretty much need to kill yourself in the process, however the last few years, they've started handing out "Honorable Mentions" for people who do dumb things and live to tell (and procreate).
This is where Dave comes in. "Cajun" Dave used to work with me at Bob Soto's back in the day. I remember when he first started, when we nicknamed him the "Crash & Burn Express". I remember Dan from DiveTech telling me he found a naked guy asleep on his picnic table outside his apartment, the only identifying feature being a Soto's staff shirt a few feet away. I remember when he took a shine to a just-18 friend who I was 'guarding' at the bar and had to have a little chat. I remember a bunch of funny little stories, usually involving alcohol and sometimes involving fire that Dave managed to get himself into. Ironically, he could deep-fry a turkey WITHOUT burning down the house!
After Hurricane Ivan put the final name in Bob Soto's Diving, Dave relocated to Florida where he was working for a dive shop in Key Largo. Matty and I went to visit him when we went to Florida for the weekend before his wedding. This particular dive shop ran a trip out to a specific reef where they could feed and milest nurse sharks, much like they do with the stingrays here at Stingray City, or in Belize at Shark-Ray-Alley. Dave had a lot of experience with Stingray City (really, who didn't who worked at Soto's?) so he fell right into step with the hand-feeding of the sharks there. As Dave was wont to do, he decided to take it a step further, to separate himself from the herd so to speak, and decided the time was ripe to kiss the shark on the mouth.
"You pick 'em up, rub their belly, scratch 'em, hug them, you might as well give 'em a smooch while you're out there." This was Dave's approach with the ladies at the bar, so why not with the nurse sharks in the sea? Unfortunately for Dave, this particular shark (like a few particular ladies at the Lone Star) didn't take too kindly to his approaches and did the one and only thing it could do to defend itself: It bit his lip nearly clean off.
Now remember that this is a nurse shark, nature's dustbuster! the mouth is elongated and the teeth are set back inside the snout, so this thing had to suck his face into it's mouth and THEN bite down on his lip. In the video you can see when the shark lets go Dave's lip is kinda hanging loosely from his nose looking a lot like a small piece of squid or any random bit of food that a shark might spit out while eating which immediately attracted the attention of the nearby snappers! By the time they all had their piece of Dave (literally) the plastic surgeon who patched him up described it as :
"It was a matter of completing the puzzle and putting (a hundred little pieces) back together again,"
Willy at Divester.com (RIP Divester, we miss you) picked up on the story and posted it, along with a link to the video at the local ABC news website about the same time I heard about it through back channel communications. I posted it here and also posted a message to the Ex-Soto's Yahoo Group and we all had a little fun at Dave's expense. A lot of people came out of the internet woods to take shots at Dave and condemn fish feeding and blahblah blah and it turned out to be one of the, if not most commented on article on Divester.
Last week, almost a full year after getting his face bitten by a shark, getting reconstructive surgery, being interviewed by the local ABC affiliate, after moving back to Louisiana, after getting married, after becoming a father (Jesus that sounds scary just TYPING it!) The Shark Story is back again, this time in the official Darwin Awards newsletter! Since he didn't kill himself, he gets an Honorable Mention but still, fifteen minutes of fame is fifteen minutes of fame! Who was it who said "there's no such thing as bad press"??
Thanks to Matty who sent me the FWD that he received from his brother in the UK who recognized the story and the name and sent it on.