Believe it or not, these people are dead stupid

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IT IS tough being stupid. Not only do you get to die in the most spectacularly idiotic way, but, if you happen to be Santiago Alvarado or Sylvester Briddell, you get to do it twice.

Messrs Alvarado and Briddell are the toast of this year's Darwin Awards, which celebrate the removal from the human gene pool of its most pathetic specimens.

According to a list posted on the Internet by an anonymous group, Mr Alvarado, 24, died in February when he fell head-first through the ceiling of a shop he was burgling in California. He was killed by the torch he was holding in his mouth, which crashed through his brain as his face hit the floor.

Mr Briddell, 26, also died in February, in Delaware, after betting his friends he would put a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger. He won the bet but never lived to collect his prize. The problem is, both men died in the exactly the same way on last year's list.

This year's candidates also include Nick Berrena, 20, an officer cadet who died when a colleague stabbed him to death while demonstrating that his flak vest was... well... knife-proof. Strangely, last year's list includes a security man at a Moscow bank who died in exactly the same way.

After the revelation that the first winner - a man supposedly killed when a Coke machine fell on him - was a hoax, the awards committee will have to clean up its act.

Nevertheless, true or not, this year's candidates are irresistibly stupid. They include a 41-year-old Detroit man who got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18in-wide sewer grate to retrieve his car keys.

Among those earning a commendation - because their stupidity did not cause death - is a Mexican attorney who claimed his mobile phone became lodged up his rectum because it was left in the shower by his dog and he fell upon it.

Dr Denis Cole, who removed it, praised the man's courage. "Three times during the extraction his phone rang and each time he made jokes about it that just had us rolling on the floor. By the time we finished, we really expected to find an answering machine in there," he said.