Ever do something incredibly reckless and think to yourself “it would be pretty embarrassing if this was how I died”? This quick but incredibly weird story of the death of a Canadian lawyer is one of those tragic but completely avoidable incidents that sound completely made up. But it isn’t, this really happened. And it unfortunately happened in front of a room of witnesses.
In 1993 Toronto-based law firm Holden Day Wilson boasted 90 talented lawyers and held offices at the prominent Toronto-Dominion Centre, a series of five Financial District skyscrapers built in 1969. The view from the firm’s suites on the twenty-fourth floor would have provided a stunning backdrop while work was carried out and meetings were held at the busy office.
The workday on 9 July 1993 ended with little fanfare at Holden Day Wilson. However, an event later that evening would be the beginning of the end for the successful firm and the view of Ontario’s capital would become a grotesque reminder of the horror about to occur.
Thirty-nine year old Garry Hoy was a specialist in corporate and security law and had worked at Holden Day Wilson since 1979. He had no children and was separated from his wife, but his professional life had no where to go but up (he thought). On Friday evening Garry attended a reception at the office along with his colleagues to welcome articling students interested in Holden Day Wilson apprenticeships. As part of the event Garry took the students on a tour of the twenty-fourth floor offices and decided to demonstrate a party-trick he had done — successfully — on a number of other occasions.
In a mixture of showing off, getting a few laughs, and demonstrating the strength of modern Canadian architecture, Garry threw himself at one of the office windows at full force. He bounced off, as he did every other time he performed the stunt. But for some reason, he decided to do it a second time. A few seconds later Garry was dead on the paved courtyard below. The window, the same one which had taken his weight before, simply popped out of the building and sent the lawyer plunging hundreds of feet to his gruesome end.
While Garry received an obvious Darwin Award for his unusual death, retellings of this bizarre moment in Toronto history tend to forget that a large number of people were unfortunate witnesses. Not only the students and Garry’s colleagues, but also people going about their day in the incredibly busy Toronto district below. A few days later his colleagues at Holden Day Wilson received counselling from the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, but thirty lawyers would still part ways with the firm following the event. While the story may be amusing from a detached and somewhat flabbergasted perspective, the effect the freak accident had on those present was irreversible.
In 2013 Reddit user robert_d posted in a thread discussing the death of Garry on r/Toronto and provided his first-hand account of the event. Robert was working at his desk in an office located on a floor below Holden Day Wilson and was one of many eyewitnesses with a front-row-seat to Garry’s ill-fated stunt:
I was working in the TD Tower when the guy bounced off of my window. I think if I remember correctly he popped out the 26th floor and I worked to the TD Bank on the 10th. I didn’t see him hit the window, but he left a blood smear which tells me he must have cut himself going through the window. Edit: I was working but my back faced the window. So the loud boom simply made me turn around to face a blood smear. My boss came into my cubicle to see what the loud noise was he saw the blood too. He and I actually then both looked down at the same time. He too was pretty shocked. We actually never discuss that item even to this day, we’re FB friends and keep in contact.
He hit near one of the large blocks (folks still sit on it) on the west side, in the courtyard area between what was CUT, TD, where the grass is.
I only looked down for a brief second because I wasn’t too far up and could see that it was very messy. There was a halo of blood around his head, and then lines of goo spreading out from his body (which I later realized were his guts extending outward). Believe it or not a tourist bus actually stopped on Wellington, and people ran out and I could see some taking pictures.
I didn’t go down, and left the building on the north side to avoid seeing it, went over to a brew pub on victoria and had a few drinks.
Even today when I cut through the courtyard I look at that block. It is the first one you’d see coming up from wellington against the west side of tdt.Comment from Reddit.com
To say the event emotionally scarred those who witnessed it would be an obvious understatement.
Garry’s death was not treated as suspicious and was considered ‘death by misadventure’ by police. Peter Lauwers, managing partner at Holden Day Wilson, described Garry as “a bright light with the firm, a generous person who cared about others” when speaking with The Ottawa Citizen on 12 July 1993. Three years later in 1996 Holden Day Wilson closed its doors for good, the shock and trauma from Garry’s death being attributed to the firm’s dramatic downfall.
Sources and Additional Reading
All That’s Interesting – This Lawyer Fell Out of A Skyscraper Window to His Death While Trying to Prove it was Unbreakable (2020)
Snopes – Did a Man Die Demonstrating a Window’s Strength? (2000)
The Globe and Mail – When partnerships are a fragile business (2006)
Torontoist – Toronto Urban Legends: The Leaping Lawyer of Bay Street (2013)
Weird Universe – The Leaping Lawyer of Toronto
Wikipedia – Death of Garry Hoy / Holden Day Wilson / Toronto-Dominion Centre