In Death, Evel Knievel to Perform Last Spectacular Jump
Casket To Be Catapulted From Butte Civic Center Into Freshly Dug Ditch Two Miles Away
Evel Knievel in happier times, sustaining serious spinal cord injuries after clearing a row of 13 single-deck buses.
BUTTE, MONTANA (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) — Before his death Evel Knievel made arrangements to be buried in his hometown of Butte, Montana. The Butte Civic Arena, with seating for 17,000, will play host to Knievel's ceremony on Monday (December 10). Mourners will be in for a special treat, as per Knievel’s final wish, he will perform a final jump from the arena’s stage (parking lot, actually) and, with luck, wind up either in or near his final resting place.
It’s been twenty-six years since Knievel’s last jump; according to Krystal Kennedy, his former wife of two "tumultuous yet injury-free" years, the legendary daredevil had last minute second thoughts.
“I think it was a control thing,” said Kennedy. “When you’re alive and suspended above a canyon, you feel like you’re sort of, kind of in control of your own destiny. But when you’re dead, well, there’s not a hell of a lot you can do – praying is no longer an option. And the last thing Evel wanted was to get tied up in a power line, or misfiring and landing at the wrong gravesite. Or on top of a moving ice cream truck. A lot could go wrong. And even if everything went right, he was wondering if it was an appropriate send off – being catapulted in front of thousands of screaming fans is not exactly a dignified way to go.”
Lifelong friend Bill Rundle is arranging the ceremony and insists that the proceedings will do justice to Knievel’s legacy. “This is what he loved most, taking chances and gambling with his life. Only now he’s dead, so it’s a win-win: if he makes it, everyone goes home happy. If not, what’s the worst that can happen? You collect the pieces and lower the whole ball of wax into the ground.”
Knievel had a fiberglass casket specially designed for his final jump. The casket was molded for maximum aerodynamics and looked more like a cruise missile than a conventional burial cavity. It was outfitted with special flame retardant lining and reinforced gaskets to make sure the casket didn’t open mid-flight and prematurely release Knievel’s lifeless form. The casket was fitted with a guidance system and while it could be fired from a mobile launch apparatus, event promoter Sam Kaplan arranged for it to be fired from a cannon to heighten the dramatic effect.
“Is it inherently more dramatic when it’s life and death?" asked Kaplan. "Of course. But people will still be on the edge of their seats – built-in guidance systems are not infallible. A small software glitch can force it miles wide of the mark, which can cause untold damage. A 1,000 lb casket carrying 185 pounds of additional dead weight hurtling through space at 550 mph can take out an office building or a row of homes. I would argue that this is Evel’s most dangerous stunt…it’s not just one man’s life that’s at stake, but possibly dozens who find themselves on the wrong end of a wayward casket.”
Knievel influenced an entire generation of daredevils – skateboarders, snowboarders, surfers, BMXers, skiers, all indebted to his flair for spectacular, bone-breaking stunts.
“Evel was definitely a huge inspiration,” said professional skateboarder and fellow daredevil Danny Way, whose feats include skating the great Wall of China and dropping onto a vertical ramp from a helicopter. He was planning on duplicating Knievels ill-fated Caesar’s Palace jump, but his hero’s death gave him another idea. “Once the dust settles and Evel is in the ground, we’re planning on jumping the length of the cemetery and landing atop Evel’s headstone. I can’t think of a better way of honoring Evel’s memory and thanking him for paving the way.”
Knievel’s body was flown from Clearwater, Florida to Butte, Montana. The refrigerated van transporting the body to the funeral home was side-swiped by an SUV. The van slammed into a guardrail, the back of the van opened and the container housing Knievel’s body spilled onto the icy road, causing an eight car pileup. Ten were treated for an assortment of injuries, including miscellaneous broken bones; ironically, Knievel emerged unharmed.
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