This Day in Failure: December 22

2008: A retention wall holding back 80 acres of sludge generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil [Coal] Plant suffers a breach, sending 500 million gallons of waste downhill, damaging 15 homes and making some uninhabitable. The fly ash sludge covers 400 acres at a depth of up to six feet.

2008: The Cook County (Chicago) Sheriff’s office announces that it arrested 61 people with outstanding warrants in a holiday sting operation, luring fugitives to a hotel with news they had won a $1,000 gift card and the chance to win a big-screen TV from Shoptastic Solutions, a fictional marketing company. The police also arrested 169 others who made reservations to collect their winnings but failed to show up at the hotel. Their crimes ranged from failing to pay child support to aggravated driving under the influence.

1996: Rich Kotite, famous for wearing a look of beleaguerment and anguish on the sidelines, coaches his last game as head coach of the NFL’s New York Jets, a 31-28 come-from-ahead loss to the Miami Dolphins. In two seasons, Kotite compiles a 4-28 (.125) record, tying Leeman Bennett (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), for the worst record of any head coach with more than 30 games with the same club. As Kotite walks off the field, a disgruntled Jets fan flashes a cardboard sign that reads: “The End of an Error.”

1985: After the New England Patriots defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 34-23 at Foxboro Stadium, fans storm the field, tear down the goal posts and parade down the main road outside the stadium. The celebration ends abruptly when a piece of the goal post strikes an overhead wire and a fan is electrocuted.

1977: In New York City, 26-year-old Thomas Helms attempts to commit suicide by leaping off the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building. Helms falls only 20 feet, landing on a narrow ledge on the 85th floor. Knocked unconscious by the impact, rescuers have the opportunity to pull him to safety.