10 celebrities who met their demise in their automobiles
A lot of celebrities are known to live their lives “in the fast lane,” figuratively and literally. While many are able to survive the pressure and temptations of fame and fortune to retire to a ripe age, there are some who die behind the wheel of a car. And there are also celebrities whose lives end on the road just because of very unfortunate circumstances. To commemorate Halloween, Fast Times is featuring 10 popular individuals who perished in vehicular accidents.
1. James Dean. His death on September 30, 1955, while driving his Porsche 550 Spyder, remains one of the most talked-about celebrity deaths in a motoring incident. His car smashed into another vehicle in California. He was only 24 years old and was known to be a “rebel without a cause,” which also happens to be the title of his most popular movie. Perhaps he lived too fast? Apparently not too fast. It has been revealed by a documentary that Dean’s car was traveling at just over 70mph (or 112kph)—20mph (32kph) less than what had earlier been claimed. That is quite slow for a self-confessed speed freak driving a high-powered Porsche.
2. Paul Walker. He played a major role in making Fast & Furious one of the most popular franchises in Hollywood history. But who would ever expect that he would die on November 30, 2013, the way he had become famous (by driving fast)? Investigations show that Walker was driving Roger Rodas’s 2005 Porsche Carrera GT at between 130kph and 150kph when it crashed into a concrete lamppost and two trees on Hercules Street in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles. The vehicle burst into flames. An autopsy on Walker revealed he may have died before the car got burned. He was 40 years old. Rodas also died in the accident. Walker was bound for a charity event for victims of Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name Yolanda) when the accident happened.
3. Princess Diana. Her fatal car accident on August 31, 1997, was a shocker to the world considering she was perceived to be picking up the pieces of her life left shattered by her divorce from Prince Charles. She was only 36 years old. Although the paparazzi were partly blamed for her death, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that crashed, Henri Paul, was said to be driving too fast approaching the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris. Her companion Dodi Fayed and Paul, who was allegedly drunk when he drove the ill-fated S-Class, both perished in the accident. The lone survivor was their bodyguard Trevor Reese-Jones.
4. Princess Grace Kelly. Her Rover P6 missed a curve and went over a cliff on September 13, 1982, while she was heading home to her palace in Monaco. The reason? She suffered a stroke while driving, and subsequently lost control of the vehicle. She died of traumatic head injuries the following day. More than 100 television viewers paid their last respects to the former Hollywood icon who married into the royalty of Monaco.
5. Aytron Senna. Known for his fierce driving style on the racetrack, the three-time Formula 1 driver from Brazil had a very successful career when he crashed on May 1, 1994, during the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. He was only 34, but already widely acknowledged around the sport to be the best driver ever to pilot an F1 car. The racing world grieved. There was mass mourning in Brazil, where he was a national icon. Senna had failed to finish the first two races of the 1994 season and vowed to stage a better showing in the 14 remaining races. Did he pressure himself too much? But it was learned Senna had complained of his McLaren FW16 being difficult to handle even after race engineers had made last-minute adjustments before the San Marino race. Senna’s death led to the introduction of more safety measures in F1 racing. His death is a grim reminder of how race car drivers risk their lives to please commercial interests, build their own legacies, entertain fans and test new automotive technologies.
6. General George Patton Jr. The way he commanded American troops into the German homeland was legendary, and his courage in the face of daunting odds is the stuff of legend. So his death from injuries sustained in a vehicular accident on December 21, 1945, on a road outside Mannheim in Germany (the land he helped conquer), was unexpected. His death took place a few months after World War II had ended. His automobile was rammed by a truck, and two of his companions were not injured, fueling conspiracy theories up to this day that he was assassinated. He died 12 days after the crash.
7. Jayne Mansfield. The supposed successor to sex symbol Marilyn Monroe died in an almost gruesome manner on June 29, 1967, when the car driven by Ronnie Harrison submarined underneath a truck in a foggy road en route to New Orleans. Three of her five children onboard sustained injuries but survived. The fog was reportedly caused by anti-mosquito spray. Mansfield, her lover Sam Brody and the driver failed to see the tractor-trailer in front of them, and their car ran completely under it. Brody and the driver also lost their lives in this incident. Thankfully, the tragedy did not end up in vain as the National Highway Safety Administration later required that all truck trailers be equipped with under-ride bars called Mansfield bars.
8. Randy Savage. Randy Morio Poffo—his real name—was known for his macho antics in the professional wrestling world, which made him look invincible in and out of the ring. But his robust frame failed to save him from a car accident on May 20, 2011, while he was driving with his wife in Florida. His Jeep Wrangler crashed into a tree, and it was reported that the 58-year-old wrestler had a heart attack while driving. His wife survived the crash.
9. Lino Brocka. Philippine roads are among the most dangerous in the world and have claimed many lives, including that of award-winning director Lino Brocka. The auteur died in a car accident at about 1:30am of May 21, 1991, when the Toyota Corolla he was riding (and driven by actor William Lorenzo) rammed into a concrete electric post on East Avenue in Quezon City. Based on reports, Lorenzo tried to evade a tricycle and two pedestrians on the road. The tricycle, witnesses said, suddenly crossed the Corolla’s path. Years after Brocka’s death, a good number of tricycles continue their reckless ways along national roads.
10. Enzo Pastor. The shooting of Pastor on June 12, 2014, in Quezon City while he was driving a truck carrying his race car, sent shock waves through the Philippine motoring community. He was heading to Clark International Speedway in Pampanga to prepare for the final leg of the Asian V8 Championship Series. As the probe into the murder unfolded, the angle of love triangle emerged, with his wife Dalia and her alleged lover Domingo de Guzman being identified as the culprits. While de Guzman and the alleged gunman, Edgar Angel, have been put behind bars, Dalia remains at large.