A fatal car crash is a tragedy, regardless who’s involved. Each day, someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister or friend is killed while driving or riding in a vehicle. However, these tragic events happen so often that most of us don’t pay them much mind – 99% of the time, interest in the fatal car crash is relegated to a quick news story and that’s it.
But for whatever reason, the interest behind these tragedies grows exponentially when someone famous is killed.
It’s hard to explain why – one explanation from this piece we recently caught on AskMen explains that perhaps the lives of these larger-than-life figures were ended on something most of us do on a daily basis. Or, perhaps it’s the realization that mortality doesn’t discriminate between fame and money and that life is ultimately fragile, regardless of stature or wealth.
Below is a list of 10 famous people killed in car crashes in the last 50 years or so. With some of these, you’ll likely remember where you were when you learned of this celebrity’s untimely death.
#10 – Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes – Known to adoring fans as a member of the R&B group TLC in the 90s, Lopes was killed in April 2002 when her SUV ran off a highway in Honduras. The pop star’s death also led to the demise of the successful group who sold over 20 million albums.
#9 – Steve Prefontaine – This is the guy that made running cool. Back in the 1970s, Prefontaine set world records for running. He was also training to compete in the Olympics when his life was suddenly ended in a car crash at the young age of 24. In May of 1975, Prefontaine was returning from a party when he swerved his MG convertible to avoid hitting another car and instead collided into a stone wall. The small car flipped and pinned the budding athlete underneath.
#8 – Billy Martin – This legendary baseball player turned manager was known for his fiery temper and for turning languishing ball clubs around. He’s perhaps best known for leading the New York Yankees to consecutive pennants in 1976 and 1977. Baseball fans were shocked to learn on Christmas Day 1989 that the 61-year old Martin was killed in a car crash after a night of heavy drinking.
#7 – Porfirio Rubirosa – Considered to be the last of the great playboys, Rubirosa was a diplomat, polo player and race-car driver who spent many a evening with well-known women like Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and more. Sadly, Rubirosa was killed in June 1965 when his Ferrari crashed into a tree. He was returning from an all-night party at a Paris nightclub.
#6 – Jackson Pollock – This artist was well-known for pioneering the “drip” style of painting in which the artist flings, pours and drips the paint over a canvas. Pollock’s work drew both praise and condemnation from critics. In August 1965 though, Pollock was killed in a single-car crash in Springs, NY. Reports indicate the crash was alcohol-related.
#5 – Gen. George S. Patton – This larger-than-life general is considered to be one of the most successful commanders of all time. Patton chased Pancho Villa and received a Distinguished Service Award and Purple Heart in World War I. In WWII, he commanded the U.S. Third Army. However, enemy fire isn’t what did Patton in. Just a few short months after the German surrender in December 1945, Patton lost his life when the Cadillac he was in collided with a truck in Germany. He died of a embolism about 2 weeks after the accident.
#4 – Jayne Mansfield – Stunning looks and a vibrant personality made Mansfield an iconic sex symbol of 1950s America. She starred in numerous films and won a Golden Globe in 1957 for her role in The Wayward Bus. The actress was also known for her steamy love life – it’s rumored she had affairs with John and Robert Kennedy. Sadly, the actress was killed in June 1967 when the car she was riding in rear-ended a tractor-trailer.
#3 – Princess Grace Kelly – Also a star and fashion icon from the 1950s, Grace Kelly appeared in films like Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. She retired from acting at the age of 26 and married Prince Rainier III and became the Princess of Monaco. Unfortunately, this fairytale doesn’t have a happy ending. While driving home to Monaco in September 1982, Kelly suffered a massive stroke and lost control of her car. She was critically injured and died a day later at the age of 52.
#2 – Princess Diana – Marrying Prince Charles in 1981, Princess Di’s life was constantly being scrutinized. She was known as being strong willed, independent and a devoted mother. Prior to her death, she was known for her unconventional departure from the royal role when her marriage ended. In August 1997 though, Princess Di was killed at the young age of 36 when the car she was riding in slamed into a bridge in Paris while evading a paparazzi. It’s estimated that 2.5 billion people worldwide tuned in for the broadcast of her funeral.
#1 – James Dean – As one of Hollywood’s most promising young stars of his day, fans were shocked to learn of his death in September 1955 in a car crash outside of Cholame, California. The Rebel Without a Cause star was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder to a race when a 23-year-old driver crossed in front Dean’s car. In the decades following the crash, Dean has attracted a cult-like following.
As you can see, many of these tragic deaths occurred due to driving under the influence. Carelessness in regard to drinking and driving has taken way too many lives over the year. If you’re celebrating the passing of 2012 into 2013 with friends, be sure you DO NOT drive intoxicated.
Sleep it off, call a cab, do whatever you need to do to stay away from behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. As this list reminds us, no one is immune from the consequences of drunk driving.