Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How common are Champagne-related deaths?

Did Champagne kill Cassandra Lynn Hensley? Answer below!
There's a stat kicking around the Internet: that 24 people a year die from Champagne corks. I won't link to any stories just now to build suspense. But the number is oddly specific.

I decided to briefly look into this before fact-checking becomes illegal in the United States. How safe are your children around Champagne? Think of the children!

Here's what I could come up with:

1) Most listings since 2008 cite a single authoritative-sounding paragraph in a Daily Mail article. It reads:
More people are killed each year by flying champagne corks than bites from poisonous spiders. Of the nearly two dozen champagne-accident fatalities a year, more than a third occur at weddings.

2) That article is a review of sorts of a book, "101 Crazy Ways to Die," by Matt Roper, a former writer for the Daily Mirror, which for those of you who don't follow the UK press is even less reputable than the Daily Mail.

3) I haven't read the book, but the Daily Mail article cites zero actual cases of Champagne-related deaths.

4) However, in 2014 some unreputable websites reported that a Chinese billionaire died from a Champagne cork. That story is still making the rounds, but Gawker (since driven out of business by potential cabinet member Peter Thiel) debunked it almost immediately.

5) Former Playboy Playmate Cassandra Lynn Hensley apparently was found dead in the tub after binging on Champagne and cocaine. Also, former Glee star Cory Monteith died after combining intravenous heroin use with Champagne.

6) You'd think Champagne-related overdoses would be common among rock and roll stars, but I couldn't find any. Most alcohol-related ODs happen from people drinking stronger stuff; Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, for example, drank 40 shots of vodka in a day, starting with 16 at breakfast. Mick Jagger did kick saxophonist Bobby Keys out of the Rolling Stones' touring band for 16 years for taking a bath in a tub full of Champagne, but no one was injured. (By the way, if you haven't read Keith Richards' book "Life," it's terrific.)

7) A British TV presenter named Annie St. John committed suicide in 1990 by combining Champagne with unspecified pills. She didn't die for 38 days. Yikes.

8) Five major World War I battles happened in Champagne. Hundreds of thousands of people died. I can't find any evidence that any of them suffered death by cork.

So here's what I got:

So far as I can tell, no one, ever, has died from a Champagne cork (though it's a good idea not to mix Champagne with heroin). It's possible that someone has died in a traffic accident after consuming too much Champagne, but I can't find evidence of it.

Rejoice spiders: your place on the deadly fears chart is safe!

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