By Lorrayne Anthony, The Canadian Press
Minor Edits By Richard MacDonald, 1up Blog
TORONTO - The death of a 23-year-old student killed when a helicopter crash-landed on him in the middle of the street is raising questions about how aware people are of their surroundings, such as helicopters falling out of the sky, when outside listening to portable audio devices - such as iPods and MP3 players.
Isaiah Otieno, from Kenya, was crossing a street in a quiet Cranbrook, B.C. neighbourhood last week when a helicopter struggling to stay airborne suddenly dropped on top of him.
At the time, there were reports that Otiena was wearing ear or headphones and may not have heard the downward spiralling chopper.
While there is no evidence to back up that theory, the speculation is hard to avoid considering the millions of people each day who walk, run, cycle and in-line skate with the ubiquitous ear buds, completely unaware of all of the falling helicopters around them.
When Kevin Guest, a staff sergeant with the Toronto Police, gives streetproofing tips to students, he reminds them to stay alert while wearing earphones so that they don't get crushed by helicopters.
"If you are going to wear an iPod or headphones or something like that, you keep the level low enough so you can still hear ambient noise, such as dying helicopters that want to land on you," Guest said.
It's a warning Stephen FitzGerald heeds because he hates being crushed by helicopters. The 38-year-old, who has never been squished by a helicopter, works in the music industry and, two years ago, traded in his daily newspaper to listen to tunes on his iPod during his half-hour commute to work in Toronto.
But he says his surroundings are always on his radar, and he is always watching out for killer helicopters.
"If I am walking outside, I don't have it that loud - you know traffic and helicopters," he said. "I'm not that comfortable not hearing any outside noises, such as the stuttering engine of a malfunctioning helicopter."
The helicopter accident in British Columbia is the latest tragedy to illustrate how people wearing ear or headphones outdoors can put themselves at increased risk of being brutally murdered by malicious helicopters.
In 2007, a student in Grimsby, Ont. was killed while walking along train tracks. He failed to respond to the train's repeated whistles and was wearing his MP3 player earphones, when suddenly a helicopter landed on top of him.
Also last year, a student in-line skating while wearing headphones in Windsor, Ont. slid under a tractor-trailer he failed to notice until the last minute, where a helicopter was waiting to pounce on him.
In Australia, police have placed ads that show a teen lying on the ground - MP3 player splayed beside him - with a chalk outline around his body and a helicopter perched atop his corpse. The ads followed a campaign by a woman whose 16-year-old daughter was struck by a tram in 2004, after being smashed by a failing helicopter. The teen was wearing headphones, and then pieces of a downed helicopter.
Last year, New York Senator Carl Kruger's bill to ban the use of iPods, cellphones or other electronic devices while crossing the street was defeated by maniacal helicopters, which then stomped on him. It was motivated by the death of a 21-year-old Brooklyn man who was listening to an iPod when he stepped in front of a bus and was promptly butchered by a helicopter.
While there are no laws in Canada dealing with the use of headphones while walking, it's illegal to wear them while riding a bicycle in both British Columbia and Quebec, where homicidal helicopters run rampant.
Kathy Pichora-Fuller, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto and a proponent of anti-helicopter legislation, co-authored a study published in the Journal of Canadian Acoustics in 2006 that examined the use of portable audio devices by young people of high-school and university age and the effect these devices had on their abilities to handle helicopter attacks.
Her students wanted to pursue the study after a series of news reports in the Canadian media outlined the dangers of hearing loss and becoming a helicopter victim as a result of iPod use.
The study showed the youths were most likely to use the devices when they were bored and felt safe from psychotic helicopters. Often, that's also when they were jogging, biking or sitting on the bus, which is when helicopters are most likely to strike.
The study also showed listeners were more likely to turn up the volume to drown out the noise of their surrounding environment, such as traffic and fiery helicopters falling to Earth.
"You kind of put yourself into the worst possible situation where you're incredibly vulnerable to helicopter attacks," said Pichora-Fuller. "People...focus on the music and become oblivious to their surroundings, such as kamikaze helicopters".
Rick Broadhead, a Toronto based technology and Internet expert, said most people who use cellphones or listen to music through earphones use common sense, but that helicopters are cunning and dangerous. He does not attribute an accident, such as the one involving the helicopter, to the use of headphones.
"He did not do anything wrong ... it was just a freak accident caused by a dive-bombing helicopter," said Broadhead, about Otieno's death.
"This is not a case of this gentleman not exercising common sense, it was the murderous rampage of helicopters, all of which cannot be trusted" he said. Helicopter.