The biggest accidents and injuries on MythBusters

MythBusters was one of the defining shows of early 21st-century television. Over the course of 14 seasons, viewers tuned in to watch the MythBusters – special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman — test out a variety of urban legends and myths using their lab-built contraptions. A secondary "Build Team" made up of Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci were a welcome addition in the second season. These three co-hosts contributed to the high-tech hijinks of the show and helped to "Bust" and "Confirm" hundreds of myths over the following seasons. Grant's untimely passing in July 2020 devastated many fans of the show, who will remember him for his ingenuity and upbeat spirit.

The MythBusters are proud of the safety record that the show maintained during its years on the air, but that's not to say that it was completely accident-free. As you can expect with any series centered around recreating dangerous urban legends — from car crashes to homemade explosions — there were bound to be some accidents and injuries from time to time. After reading this list of mishaps, you might actually be surprised that the Discovery Channel let MythBusters run for as long as it did. And, as Adam and Jamie warned at the beginning of every episode: Do not try any of this at home!

A rogue cannonball smashed into a house

Anyone who has watched MythBusters knows that the set-up for each experiment includes plenty of safety precautions to protect the cast and crew. Even more importantly, the MythBusters want to ensure that their tests could never possibly harm a bystander. But one day, the unthinkable happened.

In 2011, the MythBusters Build Team were testing whether a stone cannonball could be fired with the same force as a metal one. To examine this myth, the team headed out to the Alameda County bomb range and brought along a self-made cannon that they had used in prior episodes. To start the test, they loaded in a metal cannonball, lit the fuse, and Boom! A puff of smoke ... but where was the cannonball? As the MythBusters would later discover, it had apparently bounced off the ground and was sent flying into a residential neighborhood 700 yards outside the range. From there, the cannonball followed a hectic trajectory: According to the L.A. Times, it smashed a ten-inch hole through one house, bounced off the roof of another, and ultimately came to a stop after hitting a parked minivan.

The MythBusters have described this incident as their "Worst Day Ever" — and rightly so. Someone absolutely could have been injured or killed by the speeding 30-pound cannonball. Thankfully, no one was. Regardless, the network promised to pay for any damages, and Adam and Jamie personally met with the affected families to express their sympathy. The MythBusters also made sure to be even more safe with their projectiles in future seasons.

A coffee creamer explosion produced an unexpectedly huge fireball

Don't let the cannonball incident fool you — the biggest accidents on MythBusters almost always happened to the MythBusters themselves. In the 2008 season, Grant, Kari, and Tory decided to test whether a cloud of sawdust that was lit on fire would produce a huge fireball, as a recent viral video had shown. To examine this, the Build Team built a cannon that shot sawdust into the air, which was immediately lit with a flare. To their surprise, the resulting fireball resembled the one in the viral video almost exactly, so they declared the myth "Confirmed."

But the curious team decided to take things up a notch and built an even bigger cannon. This time, they filled it with a highly flammable powdered coffee creamer. When the cannon fired, the massive cloud of creamer ignited a second later — with the Build Team standing just a few yards away. "And then the wind changed, and it started coming at us," Kari later told Mental Floss. "I had so much fear in my heart, I just started running." Kari wasn't the only one: The episode shows all three members of the Build Team quickly backing away from the fireball. Thankfully, it stopped its expansion a few feet away from the group, leaving them all completely unscathed.

Jamie accidentally created a deadly lawn mower

In the 2015 season of MythBusters, Adam and Jamie investigated an urban legend which said that a rock caught in a lawn mower could be propelled with enough force to kill a person. More specifically, they wanted to see if a lawn mower could fling a rock with the energy and force of a speeding bullet. So, they started by removing the safety features from some commercial lawn mowers and running them over a makeshift rocky lawn. They found that the mowers were capable of launching rocks with enough force to lodge into styrofoam. Additional lab tests confirmed that the flying rocks had similar energy to a gun-fired bullet (or even more energy).

This alone was enough to declare the myth "Confirmed." But Jamie wasn't satisfied. He had so much fun testing the myth that he decided to construct a massive, high-powered "Lawn Mower from Hell." But the dastardly device turned out to be even more destructive than Jamie had intended. When the giant mower hit a bump, the axle broke, sending the rapidly spinning 50-pound blade flying out of the front of the machine. Thankfully, everyone around had already taken cover from the hellish device. If anyone had been standing in the field in front of it, their ankles definitely would have been shattered — at best. The MythBusters decided that the machine was too dangerous for further use, and Jamie had to abandon his pet project.

Adam burned off part of his eyebrow

In one of MythBusters' very first episodes, Adam and Jamie investigated whether using a cell phone at a gas station can lead to an explosion. Testing this myth required the duo to build a gasoline-filled glass chamber, which they would then attempt to ignite with a phone. The episode featured many mini-explosions as the MythBusters tried to figure out the proper concentration of gasoline to test the myth. But one of these explosions was just a little too powerful, and Adam was standing just a little too close...

Adam recalled the incident in a later interview, saying that he wasn't that concerned after the fireball blew up in his face. It was only after Jamie told him that he was missing half of his hair that he "lost all his good humor" and started to worry for real. Thankfully, Jamie was exaggerating. The blast only singed off part of Adam's eyebrow. The most unfortunate part of the incident was that Adam had a date the following day — but hopefully his companion was impressed by his dedication to science.

Adam smashed his hand between safety glass panels

According to Jamie, some of the worst injuries to occur on MythBusters were broken fingers — "Ironically, broken while handling safety equipment. Those heavy glass panels that we put up are kind of bad to put your fingers in-between if you're not careful." One notable injury of this type occurred to Adam while filming an episode for the 2014 season. The MythBusters were testing whether an exploding water heater could potentially put out a nearby fire. While assembling the blast shields to house the explosion, Adam got his hand stuck between two of the heavy panes and apparently broke his "second metacarpal" bone. (In less nerd-speak, the base of his index finger.)

According to Adam, he had already forgotten about the injury by the time the episode aired a few months later — that is, until his mother called to ask him if he was alright. She had seen people tweeting about Adam's broken hand and figured that the injury must have been recent. Luckily for the worried mom, Adam's hand was already fine by then.

An indoor rocket test almost burned down the workshop

Is it possible that the Confederate States of America could have built a two-stage rocket during the Civil War and launched it from Richmond to Washington, D.C.? Adam and Jamie dedicated a whole episode of the 2005 season to investigating this unusual myth. In less than two days, the MythBusters were able to construct an entire rocket using technologies that would have been available to Civil War-era engineers. But there was one major mishap along the way.

After Adam and Jamie were pretty confident that they had built a working rocket, they decided to perform an indoor ignition test. They put the rocket in a big metal shipping container and rigged it so that it could be ignited from outside the lab. When Adam pulled the switch, they heard a massive boom, and smoke immediately began pouring from the workshop. Things were looking much worse on the inside, with huge clouds of smoke and numerous small fires filling the lab. One camera and a few pieces of lab equipment were completely melted by the blaze that the rocket had produced. Luckily, the MythBusters safety team was on standby and helped to quickly extinguish the fires.

After the workshop was restored, the MythBusters took the rocket outside, where it only traveled a meager 500 yards. The myth was declared "Busted."

An underwater car escape didn't go as planned

In 2013, Adam uploaded a video responding to a question he constantly receives — "What's the scariest experience you've had on Mythbusters?" He answered that it was the 2010 episode where he escaped from a submerged car. The concept is already terrifying enough, but what made this experience even worse was that the test didn't go as it was expected to. 

The MythBusters had already attempted a series of sinking-car escapes in the 2007 season but decided to make the scenario even more realistic in 2010 by flipping the car upside down as it fell into a lake — with Adam and a safety diver inside. The experiment started off fine. But as the unbalanced car filled up with water, it actually flipped rightside up and then upside down again.

Adam certainly wasn't expecting that. Even worse, once water had completely filled the car, it was a murky brown and burned his eyes. Adam found that he was completely unable to escape under these conditions, so he tapped out, asking the safety diver to pass him the oxygen tank regulator so he could breathe. But, like the car itself, the regulator was upside down — "And an upside down regulator will give you air, but it also gives you a lot of water." Now disoriented and choking down water, Adam boldly reminded himself to keep a level head. He was soon able to open the car door and escape.

A rocket-car blew up right before its planned flight

The first myth that the MythBusters ever tested was whether a car affixed with rocket motors could go flying off a ramp at a speed around 300 miles per hour. In the initial 2003 trial, the MythBusters found that a rocket-boosted car did travel significantly faster than normal, but nowhere near 300 mph — nor was it capable of becoming airborne.

Unsatisfied, Jamie and Adam returned to this rocket-car experiment in a 2007 episode dedicated to "Supersized Myths." This time, they decided that mounting the rocket tubes inside the trunk of the car would allow the system to be more stable and spent a good portion of the episode rigging a Chevy Impala with this new configuration. They also built a massive ramp that would — hopefully — allow the car to take flight. But when it was time for the test, as Jamie and Adam watched from the sidelines, faulty rockets caused the entire unmanned car to blow up just a few feet before the ramp.

While not one of the most dangerous accidents to ever hit MythBusters, this was certainly one of the most disappointing: A 2010 special ranked the explosion among the show's greatest failures. But in a tenth-anniversary episode, all five MythBusters joined forces to revisit the rocket-car legend one final time. Anticlimactically, the myth was "Busted" — the car smashed into the ground after only a few seconds of "flight."

Tory smashed his shin during a free-fall stunt

Two particular cast members of MythBusters seemed to suffer the majority of the show's injuries: host Adam Savage and the Build Team's Tory Belleci. Tory's worst injury probably came in the 2010 season, during an episode where the Build Team was investigating whether a person could hold onto a ledge indefinitely.

To test this myth, the MythBusters went to the top of an abandoned building, where they would take turns dangling from the roof. Of course, each member of the Build Team had to wear a harness to ensure that they wouldn't hit the ground if they did let go of the ledge. Tory went first and was able to hold on with his bare hands for almost a full minute. But after 57 seconds, he could no longer handle the strain and let go. Unfortunately for Tory, he was suspended right above an open window frame, so his fall wasn't clean. As he descended, his shin smashed against the windowsill of the concrete frame below.

When Tory was released from the harness, there was a big gash on his left leg that was bleeding substantially. But Tory the daredevil kept a positive attitude: "I think you should be glad that I was the guinea pig," he told his companions.

Tory got a low blow from a goat

Tory's list of injuries certainly doesn't stop at a banged-up shin. In another episode, Kari and Tory went to a goat farm to find out if goats can really be startled into fainting — or at least falling over. That day, however, the first to fall over wasn't a goat but Tory himself. While he was holding a handful of goat feed, one curious goat jumped up and kicked Tory in the groin. Whether it was accidental or intentional may never be known for sure. The impact didn't look too severe, but it did bring Tory to his knees — a reaction any man can empathize with.

Surprisingly, that wasn't the only low blow that Tory received during his time on the show. During a different episode, he and Grant created a model of Ben Franklin's famous kite. But the small kite began to whip around uncontrollably. Then, a second after he called it "the kite of punishment," the rogue device collided with Tory's crotch.

"If I had a nickel for every time I got hit in the [groin] on this show, I could retire," Tory once said. "I hope I could still have kids." We hope so too, Tory.

Adam's car flipped onto its back

The sinking car episode wasn't the only time Adam found himself in a dangerous upside-down situation. In the 2014 season, the MythBusters tested whether Hollywood car stunts were realistic. They "Busted" the notion that it's difficult to push your opponent off the road during a car chase, finding it to be quite easy. Likewise, they "Busted" the possibility of one speeding car driving up another like a ramp.

For the final myth, the MythBusters tested whether a (novice) driver could tip his car sideways and drive around on two wheels. Adam and Jamie constructed a half-ramp that they would drive up with the left side of a car, elevating it onto its two right tires. But, after hours of attempting to use the ramp, they found themselves completely unable to control a half-elevated car, or even to keep it on its right wheels for more than a few seconds. When they called in a veteran driver for guidance, their attempts improved somewhat ... until they didn't.

In one particularly bold test, Adam was able to drive the half-elevated car for almost ten seconds. But then he tilted it too far and quickly lost control. The car flipped completely onto its side and then onto its back, skidding for several yards before grinding to a halt. It was an intense-looking crash: The windows shattered, spraying the upside-down men with glass. Thankfully, both Adam and the expert driver were okay — even though neither had a helmet. This myth, too, was declared "Busted."

A big explosion shook the whole town of Esparto

If the rogue cannonball incident was the worst day in MythBusters history, then the second worst would have to be the day they shook up an entire town. In 2009 — two years before the cannonball fiasco — the Build Team decided to test a particularly silly myth: Can a person literally have their socks "knocked off" by an impact? They started the test by putting socks onto the show's famous test dummy, Buster, and hitting him with a massive pendulum. His socks remained on his feet — so, it was time to go bigger.

The Build Team acquired 500 pounds of ANFO, an ammonium nitrate-based explosive, and brought it to a quarry outside the town of Esparto, California. They placed sock-wearing mannequins at various distances from the blast point and prepared to examine the results. But the outcome of the test was overshadowed by the sheer size of the blast. The massive explosion sent shock waves through the town of Esparto, shattering several windows. According to KCRA-TV, some worried residents ran out into the street, and one woman was even knocked off her couch by the powerful blast.

Luckily, no one got seriously hurt — besides the MythBusters' reputation, that is. Esparto residents criticized the show for not warning them about the explosion in advance, and MythBusters had to pay for several window replacements. A later episode revealed that the MythBusters never returned to the Esparto quarry after that. It's probably for the best.