Idiots Guide: Sudden Death – The Curse of the 1994-95 San Diego Chargers

 

Is the Grim Reaper stalking members of the 1994-95 AFC Champion San Diego Chargers? The genesis of this question resides in the fact that no less than 8 members of that team or 16% have since passed away from a variety of untimely misadventures before the age of 45. Bizarre sudden deaths for every 5th member of the otherwise magical 1994-95 Chargers team that made a playoff run that ended in Super Bowl XXIX. Part of the intrigue surrounding the deaths of these players are the various ways in which they met their demise. It runs the spectrum of heart attacks to self inflicted harm to being struck by lightning and yes, Doug Miller was struck by lighting, twice. Is this a real life situation that mimics the fictional plot of the film ‘Final Destination’? Is this a case of life imitating art? Whatever the case may be, this is certainly a peculiar set of unfortunate circumstances. Idiots Guide takes a look at the tragic timeline of death involving these players.

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The first tragic death happened just months following Super Bowl XXIX… 

#8. David Griggs / Automobile Accident /  June 19, 1995 / Age: 28

David Griggs 2

It was approaching midnight on Monday June 19th 1995 when Linebacker David Griggs was driving alone in his black 1992 Lexus on the Florida Turnpike near North Miami Beach. The events of the next few minutes would end his life before he lived to see June 20th. At approximately 11:50 p.m. Griggs, who was driving at a high rate of speed lost control of his vehicle near an intersection of a connecting exit ramp. His car jumped a divider at the exit ramp and rolled across the median on it’s way to a violent crash into a steel sign pole. The impact was so severe that his car bent and twisted around the pole which also penetrated the vehicles interior on the passenger side. Paramedics tried their best to save him but he was pronounced D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) by the time the ambulance reached Broward General Hospital. David Griggs was a 6-year NFL veteran who had been a starting linebacker for the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX 6 months prior. He was 28.

 

#7. Rodney Culver /  Plane Crash  /  May 11, 1996  /  Age: 26 

Rodney Culver

Rodney Culver and his wife Karen were among the 105 passengers and 5 crew members who were on board ValuJet Flight 592 that was scheduled for the short journey from (Miami) Miami International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Atlanta). What happened next would end his life and the lives of all 110 human beings on board the doomed flight. Approximately 11 minutes after take-off a terrible fire started in the cargo hold of the DC-9 plane, starting a series of tragic events that ended with the plane, engulfed in flames, nose-diving into the unforgiving Florida Everglades. An extensive NTSB investigation found that the fire was a direct result of the negligence of ValuJet and it’s maintenance crew. A box of oxygen canisters were improperly loaded into the cargo and exploded, bringing the plane down in less than 4 minutes. ValuJet was forced to pay a $28 million settlement, but Rodney Culver, his wife and the other 108 souls were taken before their time. He was just 26 years old and the 2nd team member to die within 18 months of the Super Bowl.

#6. Doug Miller  /  Struck by Lightning  /   July 21, 1998  /  Age: 28

By all accounts, Chargers Linebacker Doug Miller was an outstanding human being as well as a standout player. The kind of guy who would hand out birthday cards to all of his teammates. Which makes his premature demise and the manner of the misadventure so troublesome. Miller was on an off-season camping trip on the Colorado River near the town of Dotsero, Colorado when he was inexplicably struck by a bolt of lightning, an occurrence that holds 1 in 950,000 odds. The irony of a Charger being struck by lightning isn’t lost on me either. Miller didn’t die immediately, after all he was a big strong linebacker. Paramedics were frantically trying to save him performing CPR on the scene when lightning struck Miller…for a second time! Hitting only Miller and not the paramedic attending to him, or his friend David Petterson who was standing right next to him in both instances. The odds of being struck by lightning twice is 1 in 9 million, I couldn’t tell you what the odds are for being hit by lightning thrice in a row, but I assure you it’s absurdly remote. In any event, that’s what happened. Doug Miller became the 3rd member of the 1994-95 Charger team to die by misadventure, by very eerie circumstance. Doug Miller was 28 years old.

#5. Curtis Whitley  /  Drug Overdose  /   May 11, 2008  /   Age: 39

Curtis Whitley

At some point on May 11th, 2008 former Chargers Center Curtis Whitley accidentally overdosed on narcotics inside of his Fort Stockton, Texas trailer. He was found face-down in his bathroom, dead. Unlike the previous stories, Whitley’s issues with substance abuse were well documented during his playing career, having twice been suspended under NFL policy (Reportedly Methamphetamine). Initial toxicology reports point to a fatal intake of narcotics. He left behind a son Curtis Wayne and a daughter, Hannah. The untimely death of Curtis Whitley marked the 4th player from the 1994-95 San Diego Chargers to die before the age of 45. Curtis Whitley was just 39.

#4. Chris Mims  /  Heart Failure  /   October 15, 2011  /  Age: 38

Chris Mims

On October 15, 2008, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department went to former Chargers Defensive End Chris Mims’s apartment to execute a welfare check. What they found was Mims’s motionless, approximately 465 pound body. He was dead. Reportedly, Mims became extremely depressed with life after the NFL, becoming distant and reclusive.   Autopsy reports stated the official cause of death to be massive heart failure (Cardiac Arrest) due to a grossly enlarged heart, likely related to his obesity. With his untimely and sad circumstances around his death, Chris Mim’s became the 5th member of the 1994-95 San Diego Chargers team to die prematurely. He was 38 years old.

#3. Lew Bush  /  Heart Failure  /   December 8, 2011  /   Age: 42  

Lew Bush 2

Thursday, December 2nd 2011 was Charger Linebacker Lew Bush’s 42nd birthday, it would also turn out to be his last as he died suddenly 6 days later of massive heart failure in Tucson, Arizona. Bush had a home in San Diego. Bush’s ex-wife later filed suit against the NFL citing that since his 2002 retirement the effects of “repeated subconcussions and concussions” led to “significant long term brain damage,” which translated into the suffering of  “an acute flare-up of his depression” which led to “a fatal episode of stress induced cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as “broken heart disease”. Did you get all of that? It should be noted that Bush also struggled with his weight post career. Whatever  the reasons for his sudden, certainly tragic death, he became the 6th team member of the 1994-95 San Diego Chargers team to die prematurely. He was 42.

#2. Shawn Lee  /  Heart Failure  /   February 26, 2011  /  Age: 44

Sean Lee

Former San Diego Chargers Defensive End Shawn Lee became the 7th (not a typo) member of the 1994-95 AFC Champion team to die prematurely and young. Reportedly, Lee’s heart stopped working on Saturday, February 26th, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The cause of death was ruled a massive cardiac arrest initiated by a serious case of ‘Double Pneumonia’, an illness triggered by his consistent struggles with diabetes following his playing career.  Shawn Lee was 44 years old.

#1. Junior Seau  /  Suicide  /   May 2, 2012  /  Age: 43 

Junior Seau

Throughout his NFL career, Chargers Linebacker Junior Seau, was among the most dominant players in the entire league. He played with absolute passion and a youthful enthusiasm that was contagious to teammates and fans alike. He was an extremely passionate man, which made the circumstances behind his premature death so puzzling. On May 2nd, 2012 police responding to a call at the 600 block of South the Strand in Oceanside, California, Junior Seau’s home, found the former Charger great dead from an apparent self-inflicted gun-shot wound to his chest. It would seem that Junior Seau had committed suicide. With this untimely death, the 8th occurrence for members of the 1994-95 AFC Champion San Diego Chargers team, the bizarre coincidence(s) has made many people ask the question, “Are the 1994-95 Chargers cursed?” It is unlikely that any members of that team back in 1994 would guess that approximately one out of every five of them would be dead before the age of 45. As unlikely as that circumstance is, that’s  exactly what happened. Is truth stranger than fiction?