When people jump out of a window, it is usually out of desperation to end their lives or escape from a fire. This was not true of Garry Hoy, a 38-year-old lawyer in the prime of his life at his workplace. In fact, leading up to his shocking demise, he was in an excellent mood.
What unfolded on a fateful day in July of 1993 traumatized Hoy's colleagues and continues to baffle everyone who hears about it today. Indeed, most who learn about this tale can hardly believe it happened ― yet it did. After trying to demonstrate the strength of his office building's windows, Garry Hoy found himself accelerating from the 24th floor towards the ground and his death.
The demonstration involved Hoy running and jumping at a window in the skyscraper where his law firm was based. He had successfully done so many times before. Unfortunately, the window did not prove to be unbreakable on his final attempt. Garry Hoy charged so hard that he dislodged the glass from its frame and sent himself hurtling out of the building.
Although this accident caused a needless death, its backstory is filled with irony and arrogance. It teaches us all a lesson that you should never be too overconfident; otherwise, it may cost you your life.
An Engineer Turned Lawyer
The great irony of this story is that Garry Hoy had initially trained to be an engineer. Hoy went on to study law and eventually found himself working for a Canadian organization named Holden, Day, and Wilson. Therefore, he was highly educated.
This probably explains his interest in structural engineering and confidence in the robustness of skyscrapers. However, it does not explain his lack of judgment in recklessly performing a stunt merely to impress others.
His firm was based in downtown Toronto, in the TD Bank Tower of the Dominion Center. Garry specialized in corporate law and was said to be one of the brightest members of the 200-strong law firm. This office later became Garry Hoy's place of death in a fatal episode that is perhaps one of the weirdest in recorded history.
The official cause of death would turn out to be "auto-defenestration," i.e., the act of throwing oneself out of a window.
Routine Entertainment Went Horribly Wrong
On Friday, July 9th, 1993, Garry Hoy was at the TD Bank Tower, attending a welcoming party for potential interns of Harold Day Wilson. On the tower's 24th floor, Garry found himself in a conference room near to where the main celebration was taking place. While showing the interns around the firm's offices, Garry Hoy decided it was the perfect time for some bravado.
He was right to be confident. After all, he did what he was about to do on previous occasions without incident. Hoy proceeded to run at speed towards the window overlooking Toronto's evening skyline. As he jumped, he collided shoulder-first with one of the window panes and bounced straight off, as expected. Undoubtedly, the students present likely laughed at the silly stunt, though they were probably relieved that Garry was fine.
It is unclear what possessed Garry Hoy to attempt his ridiculous trick a second time. But, clearly not content with cheating death once, Garry repeated the stunt with total confidence. This time, Garry launched himself at the pane of glass and somehow pushed it out of its frame. The subsequent fate of the 38-year-old needs little explanation. Garry Hoy plummeted to the ground of the plaza below the TD tower to the horror of the onlooking students.
The Glass Did Not Break
When you hear that the window gave way, you might naturally assume that the glass broke. This is not the case because the glass of the skyscraper held firm. What really occurred was that Garry Hoy's past collisions with the window had weakened its frame. The glass showed no signs of damage, so Hoy felt no reason to stop.
Sadly, Garry's past engineering training betrayed him as he was unaware of the fatigue the window frame suffered as a result of his tricks. While windows of a building can withstand large forces of winds blowing from the outside, they are not specifically designed for concentrated internal impacts. Structural engineer Bob Greer had the following to say on the matter:
"I don't know of any building code in the world that would allow a 160-pound man to run up against the glass and withstand it."
Indeed, such a building quality is not considered during construction. Police did not suspect that the incident was anything more than a freak accident. An officer on the scene noted that the blinds and other windows in the conference room were intact.
Coworkers Needed Counselling
The human impact of this incident did not stop with Garry Hoy's passing. Instead of impressing interns and colleagues, Hoy ended up traumatizing them. Holden, Day, and Wilson enlisted the help of psychiatric professionals to support the employees who had been scarred by Hoy's sudden, catastrophic death.
This did not mean that colleagues were glad to see him go. Despite the mindless nature of his actions, Hoy was, for the most part, a happy, funny, and bright individual who liked to make his peers laugh. Garry's colleague Hugh Kelly commented:
"He was... one of the most personable people you could ever meet. He'll be sorely missed."
Garry Hoy's Law Firm Dissolved
If the loss of one of their best workers was not enough, Holden, Day, and Wilson collapsed in the years following the accident. 1990 was the year when two organizations merged to become Holden Day Wilson. Despite employing 90 lawyers, 30 left the firm in the aftermath of Garry Hoy's death. After the huge loss of personnel, the firm closed permanently in 1996, officially because of financial issues.
It is thought that people who play stupid games win stupid prizes. Running at a window on the 24th floor of a skyscraper offers no prize besides slightly impressing a few people. The potential risk of doing so is certain death. Garry Hoy's unfortunate demise is a warning to use common sense and value your safety above the opinions of others.