Celebrity deaths are often surprising and deeply saddening. While mourning those killed in vehicle crashes, we can also learn lessons to keep all of us safer.
1. Paul Walker
American actor Paul William Walker IV had his most iconic role in The Fast and the Furious movies. During the filming of "Furious 7" and over Thanksgiving break in November 2013, he left a charity event in Valencia, Califonia, with his friend Roger Rodas. Rodas drove Walker in a Porsche Carrera GT. Just a few miles away from the event, Rodas lost control of his vehicle and collided with a power pole and several trees. Both men were killed in the crash, and no drugs nor alcohol were involved. Law enforcement and the coroner ruled that the vehicle was traveling at an unsafe speed, anywhere between 65-90 mph, but no definite cause of the crash was determined.
2. Herb Brooks
Best known as the coach for the U.S. Olympic Hockey team that beat the Soviets during the Cold War in 1979, Herb Brooks had achieved much in the world of ice hockey. At age 66, he was killed in a single-vehicle crash near Forest Lake, Minnesota, on I-35. On that August day in 2003, he was believed to have fallen asleep due to driving all night and lost control of his vehicle, leading to the crash. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system, and he was not wearing a seatbelt — although the crash was severe enough that it’s unlikely he would have survived had he been wearing it.
3. Princess Diana
Princess Diana was known for the amazing amount of charity work she did in her lifetime. The press also often reported on her troubled marriage. Following a late dinner with her reported lover, Emad (Dodi) Fayed, she slipped into a waiting Mercedes. Pursued by several photographers, the vehicle lost control in a tunnel beneath the Place de l’Alma and slammed into a pillar at 85 mph before hitting the opposite wall and killing Dodi and the driver instantly. Diana was rushed to a nearby hospital where surgeons attempted to stop her internal bleeding and restart her heart. She was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest shortly before 4 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 8, 1997. Her death shook not only a nation of admirers but also the world that knew and loved her.
4. Cliff Burton
Known as the bass player of the heavy metal band Metallica, Clifford Lee Burton was a talented musician and composer. At a young age, he played classical piano but eventually became a huge success as a metal bass guitarist. Known for songs “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Call of Ktulu," he dazzled countless fans with his musical prowess. On Sept. 27, 1986, the band was on a tour bus leaving Stockholm on its way to Copenhagen when it slid off the road, crushing and killing Burton.
5. Grace Kelly
Known for her roles in classic films such as "High Noon," "The Country Girl" and "Dial M For Murder," Grace Kelly abandoned her acting career after her marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. In September 1982, she was traveling from Monaco to her home in Roc Agel with her daughter, when she suffered a “cerebral vascular incident” before losing control of her vehicle. Her daughter, Princess Stephanie, tried to pull the hand brake but was too late, and the car veered off the road before falling 40 yards down a hill. Kelly was rushed to a nearby hospital and was placed on life support before dying.
6. Jayne Mansfield
Often thought to be the next woman in the spotlight after the death of Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield was a successful model, singer and actress in her own right. She was at the height of her career when she died in a car crash June 29, 1967. Mansfield had been traveling with Sam Brody and her driver, along with three of her five children. Due to thick fog, the driver hit a semitrailer, resulting in the vehicle running under the trailer truck, killing the adults instantly. These deaths led to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requiring all semis to have a DOT Bar on the back, also known as “The Mansfield Bar”.
7. James Dean
James Dean pursued acting from a young age and made his film breakthrough in "Rebel Without a Cause". Also known for his iconic role in "East of Eden," Dean loved car racing from a young age. On Sept. 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic were killed in a head-on collision with another vehicle. Dean was rushed to a hospital following the collision and declared brought dead.
Learn from these deaths by avoiding distracted or impaired driving, for safer roads for everyone.