Gary Hoy (1955 – 1993) was a Canadian lawyer and a respected senior partner at a Toronto law firm. Before going to law school, Hoy had gotten a degree in engineering, and the robustness of modern building techniques was a subject of particular interest to him. He was peculiarly proud of the tensile strength of the windows at his office in the Toronto Dominion Center, a downtown high rise, and was in the habit of demonstrating the windows’ sturdiness by body checking them. As things turned out, and as he discovered on July 9th, 1993, it was an ill-advised habit.
That evening, Hoy was at a welcoming party being thrown for a group of incoming law student summer interns, in a conference room on the 24th floor of the high rise. Wishing to impress the interns with the office windows’ strength, Hoy sought to demonstrate that they were unbreakable by throwing himself at a glass wall. He had done so many a time before and always ended up bouncing off harmlessly.
As Toronto police detective described what happened next: “At this Friday night party, Mr. Hoy did it again and bounced off the glass the first time. However, he did it a second time, and this time crashed right through the middle of the glass“. He fell to his death 24 floors below.
His unfortunate death could have been averted had he left window tensile strength testing to the experts. As a structural engineer told the Toronto Star about Hoy’s peculiar methodology in the aftermath of the fatal mishap: “I don’t know of any building code in the world that would allow a 160-pound man to run up against a glass window and withstand it“.
Hoy’s auto-defenestration made the obscure law partner a greater celebrity in death than he had ever been in life. His unusual demise became the basis for sundry urban legends that were actually based on a true factual foundation. His death was featured in episodes of the TV shows Mythbusters and 1000 Ways to Die, garnered him entries in Snopes and Wikipedia, and won him a 1996 Darwin Award.