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Celebrities who have died in car crashes bring about a lot of media attention. Fans are shocked to learn their favorite celebrity has died in such a horrible way. Some may even try to imagine what it was like for their favorite celebrity in their final moments and look for all available information concerning the accident, which isn’t hard to do these days.

With over 43,000 Americans dying in car accidents each year – and close to a million world-wide – it’s inevitable that occasionally someone well known would “buy the farm” from behind the wheel (or as a passenger) in an automobile.


James Dean
Few deaths had as big an impact on American youth of the 1950s as that of actor James Dean, who died much the way he had lived: fast and quick. Only 24 years, the up-and-coming actor, best known for his portrayals of brooding, dark teenagers, was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder near Cholame, California on September 30, 1955, when he collided head on with a 1950 Ford Coupe that had crossed the centerline in an effort to make a left-hand turn.

(There is some speculation that he may have actually been a passenger, with his co-driver, German mechanic Rolf Wutherich, behind the wheel.) In either case, both men were severely injured in the crash, with Dean dying on the way to the hospital. (The belief that he was speeding at the time of the crash has never been substantiated, despite the fact that he had received a speeding ticket earlier that day.)

Ironically, Wutherich himself was to survive his injuries only to die in another car crash 26 years later, causing some people to maintain that a “curse” hung over Dean and his “death car” which, after being shown around the country as part of a driving safety demo, mysteriously disappeared.

Jayne Mansfield

Known as the “working man’s Marilyn Monroe”, this buxomly blond was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 50s and 60s, rivaling even the more famous Monroe (who preceded her with her own untimely death five years earlier).

A major star of both stage and screen by the mid 50s, with the decrease in demand for big-breasted blonde bombshells and the increase in the negative backlash against her over-publicity, she had become a box-office has-been by the time of her death in 1967.

Riding with her manager and another man (with her three young children asleep in the back seat) near Slidell, Louisiana, their 1966 Buick Electra rear ended a slow-moving tractor-trailer in the dark, killing all three adults in the front seat. (Her children, asleep at the time, all survived with minor injuries.) Rumors that she had been decapitated proved to be untrue (though she was effectively scalped, which was probably the source of the rumors).

Albert Camus

On January 4, 1960 French philosopher Albert Camus had a train ticket to Paris in his pocket. But he chose to travel with a friend who drove a luxurious Facel-Vega. The driver wasn't speeding. The pavement wasn't wet. Why the car went off the straight, wide road is a mystery. It hit one tree, smashed into another. They both died.

Lady Diana Spencer

Few celebrity deaths were as controversial as that of the one-time Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer (often referred to as “Lady Di”) who died alongside her fiancée, Egyptian magnate Dodi Fayed, and their driver in an underground tunnel in Paris on August 31st, 1997.

It was reported the entourage were fleeing the paparazzi at the time of the crash, with speeds reaching triple digits, before their Mercedes hit a concrete pylon, killing three of the car’s four occupants.

Her funeral not only became a media sensation a few days later, but her death has created a flurry of conspiracy theories that continue to swirl to this day, the most outrageous being that she was assassinated to prevent the increasingly outspoken ex-royal from revealing closely guarded family secrets.

All such rumors (including one that she was murdered by the British Intelligence service MI5) were found to be baseless, the cause of the crash being attributed primarily to the actions of the driver, who was intoxicated at the time

Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco

It was the perfect Hollywood story: starlet of the silver screen marries European prince and becomes a princess in real life. Only no one would have ever imagined the tragic ending for this 1950s equivalent of Charles and Lady Di (see no. 10) who, ironically, would share similar fates.

Driving along the serpentine highways of Monaco (a small, coastal principality on the southern coast of France) with her daughter Stephanie, her majesty apparently suffered a stroke and drove down a mountainside, killing her and badly injuring the 25 year old Stephanie.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan was born in 1877 in San Francisco and moved to Europe to become a dancer when she was in her early 20s.

Duncan lived a self-consciously bohemian, eccentric life offstage as well: She was a feminist and a Darwinist, an advocate of free love and a Communist. (For this, her American citizenship was revoked in the early 1920s.) Meanwhile, her life was a tragic one, especially when it came to automobiles: In 1913, her two small children drowned when the car they were riding in plunged over a bridge and into the Seine in Paris, and Duncan herself was seriously injured in car accidents in 1913 and 1924.

On the day she died, Duncan was a passenger in a brand-new convertible sportscar that she was learning to drive.

As she leaned back in her seat to enjoy the sea breeze, her enormous red scarf ("which she had worn since she took up communism," one newspaper reported) somehow blew into the well of the rear wheel on the passenger side. It wound around the axle, tightening around Duncan's neck and dragging her from the car and onto the cobblestone street. She died instantly.

Jackson Pollock

Pollock was one of the most influential painters in American and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement when he died in an alcohol-related car accident near his home in Springs, New York in August of 1956.

A recluse most of his life known for his volatile personality and struggles with alcoholism, he was just 44 when he went off the side of the road and flipped his Oldsmobile, killing him and one other passenger in his car.

It was largely through the efforts of his wife, Lee Krasner, that he remained well known within the art community long after tastes in art had changed, giving him greater fame after his death than he achieved in life. (An apparently common fate for artists.) So renown is he considered today, in fact, that Hollywood made a critically acclaimed movie about the man in 2000.

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