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The Top Seven Most Infamous Car Wrecks

by bradiger   April 30, 2009 at 10:00AM  |  Views: 6,574

It’s easy to strap yourself into a rolling steel cage and assume you’re invincible. Cars have a way of isolating us from the outside world and lulling drivers into a false sense of security. But with events like the recent loss of Angels' pitcher Nick Adenhart, we’re provided with another sobering reminder that at the wrong time and in the wrong hands, automobiles have the potential to be lethal weapons that can trigger catastrophes of infamous proportions.

7. Left Eye Lopes Rolls an Overloaded SUV in Honduras


Source: Staff/Getty Images North America

Lisa Lopes was a singer for the all-girl R&B group TLC. She was known for her fiery attitude and unpredictable nature, which was most notably showcased through her public feuds with the other members of TLC, and in 1994, when she burned her then-boyfriend, NFL star Andre Rison's mansion to the ground.

In 2002, while vacationing in Honduras, an area in Central America she'd frequented in the past to temporarily step out of the limelight, Lopes was driving a rollover-prone Mitsubishi Pajero with nine other people aboard. The incident was captured on a handy-cam, which happened to be on during the accident and shows Lopes suddenly losing control of the overloaded SUV and veering off the road at high speed. Lopes was thrown from the truck and was killed instantly, while none of the other occupants of the vehicle sustained any significant injury.

6. General George S. Patton Dies in Germany Shortly After WWII Ends


Source: Keystone/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Considered one of the most iconic political and military figures of the World War II era, four star general George S. Patton had triumphed in one bloody battle after another, from the deserts of North Africa to all the way to Hitler's doorstep. Outspoken and never afraid to voice his strong opinions (including his mistrust of the Russians), many believed Patton would soon run for President.

But on December 21st, 1945, the day before he was to leave occupied Germany and return to the United States, Patton was being driven through Neckarstadt, Germany. The 1939 Cadillac Model 75 he was traveling in was struck head-on by a 2.5 ton Army truck which was attempting to make left-hand turn towards a side road in front of Patton's vehicle. The impact threw Patton violently forward, causing his head to strike a metal partition between the front and back seats.

While everyone else was unharmed, Patton was left paralyzed and died of a heart attack at the military hospital in Heidelberg. The timing of his death and the various enemies he'd had (most notably in Russia) led to numerous conspiracy theories, which typically involved the notion that the Russians had somehow orchestrated the accident because they feared Patton could become President and launch a successful offensive against the Russians later on.

5. Ted Kennedy Ditches His Car With Drowning Woman Inside


Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Referred to as the "Chappaquiddick Incident,” in 1969, Ted and Mary Jo Kopechne, a former staff member of Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign, were driving in Kennedy’s 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 after a party when Kennedy apparently drove off the Dike Bridge into Poucha Pond in Massachusetts. Ted swam to safety, but Mary Jo wasn’t as fortunate, as she died in the car. Kennedy immediately left the scene and did not contact the authorities until after the car and Kopechne’s body were discovered the following day by fishermen.

He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to two months in jail, suspended (which basically means he served no jail time at all). In 1970, a further inquiry into the matter was conducted (in secret at the demand of Kennedy’s lawyers), and the judge determined that Kennedy’s "negligent driving appears to have contributed to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne" and could have ordered Kennedy’s arrest, but chose not to do so for unspecified reasons.

The diver who extracted the lifeless remains of Kennedy's passenger from the water came to a similar conclusion:

Had I received a call within five to ten minutes of the accident occurring, and was able, as I was the following morning, to be at the victim's side within twenty-five minutes of receiving the call, in such event there is a strong possibility that she would have been alive on removal from the submerged car.


4. Dale Earnhardt Killed During Final Lap of Dayonta 500


Source: Robert Laberge/Staff/Getty Images Sport

Dale Earnhardt was a seven-time series champion driver with a hugely successful career in NASCAR. He'd been nicknamed "The Intimidator" because of his aggressive style and willingness to get his hands dirty when the situation called for it.

In 2001, during the final laps of the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Sr., along with his son Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Michael Waltrip were all in contention for the win. Going into turn three during the final lap of the race, Earnhardt's car made contact with the driver directly behind him, Sterling Marlin, and veered off the track. However, Earnhardt's car abruptly changed trajectory and suddenly ran head-on into the retaining wall at a speed in excess of 160mph, killing Earnhardt instantly, while his son and Waltrip finished the race, unaware of what had happened.

Earnhardt's death rocked the NASCAR world, and later evidence found that Earnhardt had refused to wear the HANS head restraining device, which, while not mandated at the time, would likely have saved his life, as well as his seatbelts being installed in a manner they weren't designed to be, as requested by Earnhardt himself to increase comfort. Regardless, the events of that day all ushered a wave of new safety regulations in NASCAR, including wholly new racecar designs (dubbed "The Car of Tomorrow") and revised retaining wall designs which would do a better job of dissipating energy of car impacts.

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