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culture

Toronto Urban Legends: The Leaping Lawyer of Bay Street

Something you shouldn't add to your repertoire of party tricks.

The truth behind the tales people tell about Toronto.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30711218@N00/5067876038/"}jmaxtours{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/pool/"}Torontoist Flickr pool{/a}.

Garry Hoy, a 39-year-old senior partner with the law firm of Holden, Day, Wilson, had an unusual habit: bodychecking the windows of his office at Toronto’s TD Centre, notionally to demonstrate their tensile strength.

On July 9, 1993, Hoy decided to liven up a party for incoming articling students by making his signature move on a 24th-storey window.

At his first attempt, the window held. As it dawned on the assembled youth that they’d hitched their career wagons to a firm where senior partners batter themselves against windows like demented houseflies, Hoy took a second run. This time the glass popped out of the frame, sending Hoy free-falling to the courtyard below. Lamentably, if predictably, he died from his injuries.

We can never know what motivated Hoy: a desire to prove the robustness of modern construction techniques, whimsey, or just simply showing off.

We do know that his early demise could have been avoided had he left the testing to the experts. Or consulted with structural engineer Bob Greer, who later told the Toronto Star “I don’t know of any building code in the world that would allow a 160-pound man to run up against a glass and withstand it.”

Hoy’s defenestration left him more celebrated in death than he’d ever been in life, netting him a 1996 Darwin Award, sizeable Snopes and Wikipedia entries, and segments on the television shows 1000 Ways to Die and Mythbusters.

Following the accident, Peter Lauwers, managing partner of Holden, Day, Wilson, told the Toronto Sun that Hoy had been one of their “best and brightest.” The firm went under three years later.

CORRECTION: January 4, 2013, 8:00 AM This post originally stated that this incident took place on July 10, 1993. It actually took place on July 9 (as pointed out by reader Jonathan Goldsbie).

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