Shock news reached us yesterday from Colorado, USA, when we heard that Mr Buddy Vats, the world's fattest man, suffered a fatal earthquake in the early hours of the morning.
This tragedy has its own particular poignancy, coming as it does just three weeks before Mr Vats was due to receive a special award from the Guinness Book of Records, in recognition of his contribution to the world of international blubber.
Buddy Vats was first proclaimed the world's fattest man as long ago as September 1983, and in spite of some tough competition from prize porkers across the globe he has held the title ever since.
Back then, Mr Vats weighed in at an impressive 1150 pounds and was living in his mom's garage in Denver. Being unable to move under his own steam, he was incapable of going out and foraging for himself, and so his weight was maintained by regular deliveries of pies and burgers, provided by local fundraisers and well-wishers.
Indeed, such was the success of the many charity events and appeals instigated by the 'Keep Buddy Big' campaign, that Mr Vats was able to continue expanding at an impressive rate.
Punting him along the highway
This became a problem. The Vats' garage was only really designed to accommodate a normal family saloon, and could not meet the unique requirements of an over-inflated fat bastard and the attendant pulleys and guide ropes that enabled him to perform his basic ablutions and toilet activities.
By 1990 it was clear that other arrangements would need to be made. The call went out and in no time a suitable aircraft hanger had been located on the outskirts of Grand Junction. So far, so good. But if finding a new home for Mr Vats was relatively easy, then the actual task of physically relocating him was going to be much more difficult.
Various schemes were talked about, including fitting him with giant wheels and rolling him, or greasing him up and punting him along the highway with long poles. The local mayor even offered a considerable sum of public money to build a canal so that Mr Vats could be floated down to his new home.
However, in the end it was a German construction firm who saved the day, with the loan of some heavy duty earth moving equipment.
Conventional measuring techniques were not up the job
At this point, nobody was really sure how much Mr Vats weighed. Conventional measuring techniques were simply not up the job, so it was decided to send in a team of geologists to gather data and estimate his overall mass. By late spring they still hadn't returned, and so a second contingent was sent in after them.
This team was also feared lost after all radio contact ceased, but against all odds one of their number managed to find his way back. He was pale and emaciated as he was dragged from the oleaginous rolls of flab that hung from Mr Vats' left armpit, and he was babbling incoherently. Nevertheless, papers later recovered from his person contained enough information to be able to fix Mr Vats' weight at a figure rapidly approaching 2000 pounds.
Mr Vats continued to grow throughout the rest of the decade - not just in physical size, but also in notoriety. He entertained an increasing number of visitors, and soon crowds were flocking to see him. So many, in fact, that in 1996 a local businessman decided to capitalise on the fat man's fame by building a 200 acre amusement park on his lower abdomen, with parking for over ten thousand cars on his thighs.
'Vatsworld' ultimately expanded to incorporate a luxury five star hotel nestling in the picturesque valley between Mr Vats' pendulous man-boobs, perfectly placed to take advantage of the busy flab-skiing slopes that had recently become such a popular attraction on his blubbery jowls.
The stentorian force of his cheesy breath
By the end of the millennium, Vatsworld had become the third most popular attraction in North America and had proudly unveiled a multi-million-dollar science centre on one of Mr Vats' fat ankles. The idea behind the centre was to investigate ways of tapping into Mr Vats' vast reserves of renewable energy.
Thoraxic-thermal power was already being utilised to heat the water for Vatsworld's seven Olympic standard swimming pools. However, there were ambitious new plans to build a wind farm on Mr Vats' upper lip to harness the stentorian force of his cheesy breath.
Technicians were also investigating ways of unlocking the vast store of potential energy generated by the humble sweat gland (On average, Mr Vats would produce over two and a half thousand gallons of sweat an hour).
But the project that was creating the most excitement was the proposed 'colon-turbines'. These vast turbines were to be located deep in the substructure of Mr Vats, and be driven by the immense forces which would blast forth from his digestive system at regular intervals. One senior project manager is quoted as saying that Mr Vats' anus could feasibly power a moderately sized town for anything up to twenty years - although he did admit that no one would want to live there.
A super-dense 'fat hole'
Such forward-looking ideas were exciting, certainly, but it was at around this time that Mr Vats' future began to look very shaky indeed.
Throughout his final few years his growth had accelerated to an unprecedented rate. Whilst this had led to the welcome creation of some very valuable real estate, it had also become the cause of much concern for a great many dull, uninspiring scientific types who thought that they knew better.
They were worried that so much ballast concentrated in such a relatively small area would have dire consequences. In particular, they feared that the mass would ultimately become so great that Mr Vats would literally collapse in on himself, becoming a super-dense 'fat hole' from which even chips would be unable to escape.
Creaks and groans of discomfort
But in the end it seemed that mother nature herself stepped in to put an end to this extraordinary tale of corporate corpulence. The clues, we suppose, were there all along: the increasing instability of some of Mr Vats' chubbier regions; the recent lard slides and blubber quakes; the constant miasma of body odour, coupled with the creaks and groans of discomfort.
To put it simply, Mr Vats was too fat to live. The tremors set in during the night, building up to a quake that shook his ribcage apart, caused his lungs to slip and split his heart like a melon.
He will be sorely missed by his friends, his family and his many dedicated visitors. Especially those who had booked in advance.