Simple Mistakes That Had Tremendous Consequences



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Over 1.2K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Simple Mistakes That Had Tremendous Consequences
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Vote up the simple mistakes whose consequences made you say, “Wow!”

We all make mistakes. They're a common occurrence as part of the human condition, and allow us to learn and grow from our experiences. Most of the time, these errors have relatively small consequences in the grand scheme of things. Still, while it may be hard to believe, sometimes these mistakes drastically change lives and the course of history. 

Typical to most mistakes, the blunders featured in this list were often small misunderstandings. We've all reminded someone of common courtesies, missed a play at a sporting event, followed through on a dare, let an object slip from our hands, or been so enthralled in a game with friends that we failed to notice our surroundings. Unfortunately, these tiny oversights had tremendous consequences for the people involved. 

Photo: Inklein / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

  • 1
    952 VOTES

    A Boy Ate A Slug On A Dare And Ended Up Paralyzed

    In 2010, 19-year-old Sam Ballard and his friends were indulging in a casual night of wine drinking on a back patio in Sydney, Australia, when the group came up with a seemingly harmless idea. As a slug inched its way across the concrete, Ballard asked his friends if he should eat it. When his pals didn't question the idea, he tossed the slug into his mouth and swallowed. 

    Soon after, Ballard began experiencing strange symptoms. When he complained that he felt intense leg pain, Ballard's mother feared he might be developing multiple sclerosis. Doctors uncovered the real culprit as his symptoms progressed - Ballard had ingested a slug carrying rat lungworm disease. 

    This parasitic worm settles into the lungs of rats before eventually being discharged through their feces. When a slug, freshwater crab, shrimp, or frog comes in contact with the feces, it then contracts the parasite itself. 

    Unfortunately, the worm doesn't move through the human digestive tract in the same manner that it does a rat's. Instead, the parasite can be lost in the body, eventually lodging itself in the brain. Soon, the unwanted organism causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, called eosinophilic meningitis. 

    Though most recorded cases have mild consequences, some, like Ballard's, end with devastating results. Ballard fell into a 420-day coma shortly after the diagnosis. When he awoke, he was completely paralyzed and forced to eat through the use of a feeding tube. He eventually perished due to his injuries. 

    952 votes
  • 2
    752 VOTES

    A Basketball Player’s Moment Of Frustration Led To Paralysis

    Serbian basketball player Slobodan Jankovic knew the stakes were high as his team, the Panionios of Athens, battled their four-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Panathinaikos in the 1993 Greek Championships. As the final buzzer drew dangerously near, a referee called the fifth foul on the 6-foot-8-inch center, a penalty that forced him to leave the game. 

    Furious, Jankovic slammed his head against the cement column holding up the backboard. As he fell backward in a puddle of his own blood, the 30-year-old player warned medics that he could no longer feel anything from the waist down. Shortly after, a medical report was released detailing Jankovic's injuries. His act of momentary frustration had caused him to suffer permanent paralysis from the neck down, fractured neck vertebrae and irreparable damage to his spinal cord. 

    After being confined to his wheelchair, Jankovic gained considerable weight and perished from a heart attack in 2006. 

    752 votes
  • The Oldest Apple Co-Founder Dropped Out Of The Deal, Costing Him An Estimated $75 Billion In Potential Earnings
    Photo: Cynde Moya / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    540 VOTES

    The Oldest Apple Co-Founder Dropped Out Of The Deal, Costing Him An Estimated $75 Billion In Potential Earnings

    When Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak approached Ronald Wayne with a business proposition that gave him 10% of the company, he initially agreed. Then in his 40s, Wayne had worked with the two Steves before at Atari. Being twice their age (Jobs was 21 and Wozniak 26) and knowledgeable about starting businesses, he was considered the level-headed one of the group. 

    Still, the eldest founder was hesitant. Having recently failed in a slot-machine venture, Wayne understood the high stakes and the financial problems an unsuccessful business could cause. Because Jobs and Wozniak were both young and broke, Wayne worried he would ultimately be held responsible for the $15,000 loan if their model fell through. He relinquished his business portion, selling his 10% stake for $1,500. 

    Jobs's 45% stake ultimately paid out at an 11% share when Apple went public in 1980. With the company now worth around $3 trillion, Wayne turned down the possibility of earning $75 billion.  

    540 votes
  • A Soccer Star Scored On His Own Goal And Was Murdered
    Video: YouTube
    505 VOTES

    A Soccer Star Scored On His Own Goal And Was Murdered

    Colombia's game against the United States during the 1994 World Cup was important. Even though Colombia had an impeccable 26-1 winning season, the team's playoff performance had landed them in a position to possibly be eliminated. 

    Known as the "gentleman of the field" for his calm demeanor and clean playing style during matches, Colombia's Andrés Escobar set out for the critical game ready to play his typical defender position. During the 34th minute of the first half of the game, Escobar deflected US player John Harkes's attempt at a left-wing cross in the box - accidentally kicking the ball straight into Colombia's own goal. The United States went on to win the match 2-1 with the help of Escobar's mistake, and Colombia was soon eliminated from the tournament. 

    Despite warnings that Colombian fans were still angry about his mishap on the field, Escobar was intent on returning to Colombia. In an eerie statement, he said: 

    Life doesn’t end here. We have to go on. Life cannot end here. No matter how difficult, we must stand back up. We only have two options: either allow anger to paralyze us and the violence continues, or we overcome and try our best to help others. It’s our choice. Let us please maintain respect. My warmest regards to everyone. It’s been a most amazing and rare experience. We’ll see each other again soon because life does not end here.

    In a devastating turn of events, his life ended shortly after he returned home. After spending a night out drinking with friends, Escobar was shot six times in the head by a powerful drug cartel's bodyguard, Humberto Castro Muñoz. 

    After confessing to the crime, Muñoz was sentenced to 43 years in prison, but released after 11 years for good behavior. Although people have speculated that gangsters who bet on the soccer game arranged the slaying, it's still not clear whether Escobar was murdered for losing the game, or if he just got in a fight.

    505 votes
  • Two Scientists Made Slips Of The Hand While Experimenting On The Demon Core That Cost Them Their Lives
    Photo: Los Alamos Archive / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    491 VOTES

    Two Scientists Made Slips Of The Hand While Experimenting On The Demon Core That Cost Them Their Lives

    When the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan near WWII's end, they weren't the last nuclear weapons American military officials planned to use. If the Japanese refused to surrender, another plutonium core bomb sat idly, waiting to cause more catastrophic destruction. Despite never being used during WWII, the bomb managed to kill two scientists horrifically. Once simply named “Rufus,” the weapon earned the nickname “demon core” after this fatal error. 

    When WWII officially ended, scientists were allowed to keep the plutonium core bomb for further nuclear-based experiments at their laboratory in Los Alamos, NM. First, 24-year-old physicist Harry Daghlian experimented with the core's supercriticality (essential for its operation) by surrounding the explosive mechanism with tungsten carbide bricks. Though he succeeded in attempting to create the energetic boomerang effect created by the device's neutrons, he dropped one of the bricks on the core as he tried to remove it from the experiment. 

    The stumble sent the bomb into supercriticality - exposing Daghlian to neutron radiation. After experiencing a burned hand, nausea, and pain, Daghlian slipped into a coma and perished 25 days later. 

    Eerily, the incident repeated itself nine months later when 35-year-old Canadian physicist Louis Slotin experimented on the bomb's threshold by placing a beryllium dome over the core to encourage the device to reach supercriticality. Despite being warned that using a screwdriver during the experiment was dangerous, Slotin overlooked the cautionary tales and chose it as his go-to tool. With one fateful error, his hand slipped, the screwdriver fell, and the dome collapsed over the core. As neutrons ping-ponged back and forth, the bomb went supercritical. 

    Though Slotin caught the error immediately and believed that he may have saved himself from fatal harm, he was mistaken. Like Daghlian, Slotin's body was also exposed to deadly radiation. His hands blistered, he developed extreme nausea and abdominal pain, and he suffered internal radiation burns before he perished nine days later. 

    491 votes
  • 6
    689 VOTES

    A Heart Surgeon Made A Suggestion, And One Punch Later He Was Dead

    As he was leaving work at Australia's Box Hill Hospital in 2017, 41-year-old heart surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann noticed visitor Joseph Esmaili smoking a little too close to the building's entrance. After suggesting that Emsaili put away his cigarette or move farther away, the angered smoker punched Pritzwald-Stegmann in the face, knocking the accomplished surgeon unconscious. 

    His fellow surgeons performed emergency brain surgery on Pritzwald-Stegmann but were unable to save him. After spending a month in the ICU wing of the hospital, the father of two succumbed to his injuries. 

    689 votes