It’s said that “to err is human,” and true to this fact, we all make mistakes throughout our lives. Fortunately, most of us get off scot-free on our minor errors and miscommunications. But what happens when a tiny miscalculation has astronomical effects? Well, that’s when things get a little out of hand, just like it did in these instances. So, fasten your seatbelts because we are about to take you through some of the most bizarre mistakes to have ever happened.
1. In 2000, a man was given a 13-year sentence in prison for armed robbery. However, the state of Missouri forgot to take him to prison. They only noticed their mistake thirteen years later, in 2013, when it was time to release him.
At the age of 23, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson was sentenced to 13 years in prison for armed robbery. However, he was never given any orders to report to prison. Believing that his case had been overlooked, Mr. Anderson even sought out the advice of his attorney.
But as more time passed with no sign of any summons, he finally began to move on. In that time, he set up three construction businesses, got married, and had children, all while being honest about his past and whereabouts. It was only in 2013 when it was time to release him, that the Missouri Department of Corrections realized their mistake.
As a result, eight US Marshals arrived at his home one morning and took him away to prison. Soon, as the story of this clerical error gained more traction, thousands of people were urging the state to release him. Finally, after months of petitions after petitions, Mr. Anderson was set free in May 2014. (1, 2)
2. Spain’s new S-80 submarine program erroneously designed subs that were 100 tons heavier than needed and were likely to sink if submerged. Cost overruns to fix this project were calculated to reach €1 billion ($1.2 billion). The mistake was the result of someone putting a decimal point in the wrong place, leading to the most expensive math error ever.
Who would have thought that a misplaced decimal point could wreak such havoc? But that’s exactly what happened with the Spanish government’s new submarine program. When an engineer put a decimal point in the wrong place, the submarine became 100 tons heavier than necessary, affecting its buoyancy.
Eventually, the project engineers and consultants figured out that making the submarine longer could fix the problem but at an additional cost of €14 million. However, as fate would have it when the submarine was lengthened enough to float in water, it could no longer fit into the docks at the naval base at Cartagena.
In the end, the Spanish government had to restructure the docks at Cartagena so that it could fit the submarine, bringing the total cost of the project to a whopping €1 billion ($1.2 billion).
3. In July 1983, Air Canada’s Flight 143 ran out of fuel at an altitude of 41,000 feet, while carrying 69 people on board. However, the captain of the flight was able to glide the plane down safely as he was an experienced glider pilot. Due to a calculation error, the aircraft had only been filled with 22,300 pounds of jet fuel instead of 22,300 kilograms.
The “Gimli Glider,” as Air Canada’s Flight 143 has come to be known, was a domestic passenger flight scheduled to fly between Montreal and Edmonton on July 23, 1983. While in mid-flight at an altitude of 41,000 feet, it ran out of fuel, forcing the crew to glide it down to safety to the Royal Canadian Air Base in Gimli, Manitoba.
Although no one was harmed in this incident, it led to a series of investigations that revealed that it was caused by a simple mistake. When the aircraft changed hands from one crew to another at Ottawa, the new captain of the flight, Captain Bob Pearson, made a mistake in the calculation of the fuel quantity in the flight.
During the conversion of units for fuel quantity, he accidentally used pounds instead of kilograms, resulting in the aircraft carrying just 45% of its required fuel. This mistake, coupled with the fact that the Fuel Quantity Indication System on the flight had a defective channel, led to the flight running out of fuel. (1, 2)
4. A man was once released from prison 90 years too early, due to a clerical mistake. He then began to build his life by getting a job, getting married, having kids, coaching youth soccer, and being active in his church. However, when the authorities realized their mistake 6 years later, they sent him back to prison.
In 2000, a man named Rene Lima-Marin was convicted and sentenced to 98 years in prison for armed robbery at two local video stores. A judge had sentenced him to serve consecutive sentences on eight different charges. However, a court clerk made the mistake of noting down the consecutive sentences as simultaneous sentences.
As a result, correctional officers set him free in 2008 because they thought he had completed his sentence after eight years of being in prison. Unfortunately for him, the authorities eventually realized their mistake and sent him back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
5. A French woman once accidentally received a phone bill of €11,721,000,000,000,000 ( 11.7 million billion euros), a figure that was 5,000 times greater than the GDP of France that year. It took her several phone calls to get the phone company to admit they had made a mistake and that she only owed €117.21. They then retracted the bill and did not charge her for the real balance.
When Solenne San Jose, a resident of Pessac in Bordeaux, France, was looking to end her phone subscription, she was required to clear her final bill before closing the account.
But when the bill arrived, Ms. Jose was shocked to find that she owed her phone company, Bouygues Telecom, an astronomical amount of €11,721,000,000,000,000.
Initially, the phone company refused to accept that they had made a mistake. They maintained that since the phone bill was calculated automatically, there really wasn’t much they could do.
However, Ms. Jose did not give up and after several days of wrangling with the company, they admitted that they had made a mistake and apologized. Later, they let her off the real bill, which was only €117.21. (1, 2)
Also read: 10 Biggest Mistakes That Companies Have Made