Over the years, car crashes have taken the lives of some of world’s most famous people. These tragic events take the lives of more than 32,000 people in the Untied States and one million people in the world, every single year. Alcohol is a contributing factor in nearly 1/3 of fatal car accidents. Remember, never drink and drive, not even once. Here are the top ten famous individuals who tragically died in a car accident:
Tom Mix was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies. In just over 25 years, between 1909 and 1935, Tom Mix appeared in more than 291 films, of which all but 9 were silent movies. He was widely considered to be one of Hollywood’s first megastars and is noted for helping define the genre for all Western actors who followed. At the age of 60, while traveling on Arizona State Route 79 in his 1973 Coord 812 Phaeton near Florence, Arizona he came upon construction barriers at a bridge that has washed away during a flash flood at speeds in excess of 80 mph. Unable to stop his car in time, he swerved twice and rolled into a gully, pinning his body underneath the car. A large aluminum suitcase he had in the vehicle was placed directly behind his head and impacted the back of his skull during the crash, killing him instantly. A small stone memorial marks the site of his death on State Route 79 and the nearby gully was named “Tom Mix Walsh” after his death.
Steve Prefontaine was one of the best track stars in the world at the time of his death. He made the sport of running cool. As a part of the Oregon University track squad he set numerous records and was set on competing in the Olympics. Unfortunately, at the age of 24, on May 30, 1975 while returning home from a party he swerved his MG convertible to avoid colliding with another car and struck a stone wall and flipped, pilling himself underneath the car. His life story and his passion for running, have lived on since his death. His life has been immortalized through two feature films and a documentary.
Billy Martin was known for his fiery temper and his skill as a Major League Baseball manager. Martin played for the Yankees from 1950 to 1957 and took over the reigns of the team in several non-consecutive years starting in 1975 to 1978 and again in 1979, 1983, 1985, and in 1988. As a player he was received the prestigious World Series MVP in 1953 and was voted onto the All-Star team in 1956. Despite his fiery temper and never knowing what to expect from him, nothing could prepare fans for his untimely death on Christmas Day in 1989. After a night of heavy drinking, the 61 year-old got into a car with his friend, William Reedy who was driving when his truck crashed, killing Martin.
Princess Grace Kelly was a beautiful actress and a national fashion icon. Her life was nothing short of a modern fairytale. During the 1950’s she was considered to be one of Hollywood’s hottest stars and appeared in films such as Rear Windows and To Catch a Thief. She shocked the world and retired from acting at the age of 26 to marry Prince Ranier III of Monaco and became the Princess of Monaco. On September 13, 1982 while driving she suffered from a stroke and lost control of her car. As a result of the accident, she was critically injured and died a day later at the age of 52.
Albert Camus was a French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher. His contributions to the field led to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism. At the age of 46, Camus died in a car accident near Sens. It was discovered after his death, that he had originally planned to take his trip by train with his wife and children and had even purchased train tickets which were found in his coat pocket when he died. It was a last minute invitation from his publisher, Michel Gallimard, that convinced him to take the trip by car to discuss business maters. Both of the individuals died in this tragic accident.
As one of the members of the R&B group, TLC, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was celebrated for her energetic stage presence and her characteristic patch she wore over her left eye. She was often found at the center of controversy starting in 1994 when she set fire to, her boyfriend at the time, Andre Rison’s house. Despite her regular shenanigans, nothing shocked fans as much as when they learned of her death on April 25, 2002. The star had been riding in a rented SUV on a highway in La Ceiba, Hondurus when it spun off the road and crashed. None of the SUV’s seven other occupants sustained life-threading injuries. The 30 year-old’s death shocked and devastated the R&B world and led to the end of TLC who had sold more than 21 million albums worldwide.
Pete Conrad was the third person in the world’s history to step foot on the moon on November 19, 1969. Prior to becoming an astronaut he was a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot. Having lived such a risk-filled life, it is tragic it came to an end due to a minor motorcycle accident on July 8, 1999, just weeks before the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of his lunar landing. At the time of the accident he did not realize he had suffered severe internal injuries. Six hours later, he died of internal bleeding. He was buried with full honors at the Arlington National Cemetery.
General George S. Patton
General George S. Patton is widely considered the most successful modern commander in history. Patton made a name for himself when he chased Pancho Villia in 1916 during the Mexican Revolution, ultimately resulting in a promotion to First Lieutenant. Later he received the Distinguished Service Award and a Purple Heart while serving in World War I and commanded the United States Third Army during World War II. Tragically ironic, for a man who wasn’t killed in some of the bloodiest battles in the world’s history, and what entire armies failed to accomplish, a truck was able to accomplish on December 9, 1945. Although the impact was minor, the truck that collided with Patton’s Cadillac in Germany caused Patton to hit his head on the metal partition between the front and rear seats. The injuries resulted in an embolism and he passed away on December 21, 1945. Patton’s legacy lives on and he will forever be respected as one of the millions who gave their life serving the United States and protecting freedom.
Everything about Princess Diana’s death was surrounded with thick clouds of controversy. Also in the car was her fiancee, Egyptian magnate Dodi Fayed, and their driver. They were reportedly fleeing from from the paparazzi at the time of the crash and reached triple digit speeds while traveling through an underground tunnel in Paris, France when their Mercedes impacted a concrete pylon, killing three of the car’s four occupants. It was announced to the world on the evening of August 31, 1997 that Lady Di had passed away. Her funeral became the center of media attention and spawned a multitude of conspiracy theories which still exist to this day. The ultimate cause of the crash, after much investigation, was determined to be a result of the actions of the driver alone, who, as tests confirmed, was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
James Dean died the way he lived life, both fast and quick. Not many deaths have had such a large impact on the general public as the death of actor James Dean. The youth of the nation were shaken when news of his death spread on September 30, 1955. At the young age of 24, he was not only an accomplished actor, but a cultural icon. He was famous for his roles in the movies Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, and in Giant. James Dean was the first actor ever to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Ironically, earlier in the same day of his death he received a speeding citation by the California State Patrol. Later he was reported to be speeding when he collided with a 1950 Ford Coupe while driving his Porsche 550 Sypder near Cholame, California. Also in the car was German mechanic, Rolf Wutherich who managed to survive the accident, but later died in another car accident 26 years later. Dean ultimately died on his way to the hospital. After his death, his car was paraded around the country as part of a safe driving demo, before mysteriously disappearing. The location of the vehicle still has not been confirmed.
- Sam Kinnison
- Jackson Pollock
- Eddie Cochran
- Dottie West
- Jayne Mansfield
- Johnny Horton
- Mel Olt
- N.C. Wyeth
- Steve Allen
- Ryan Dunn
Featured Image: Flickr by Eliza