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The deadliest car crashes in history


Even though most car accidents do not end in fatalities, those that occur can frequently be very serious. Modern nightmares are based on vehicle crashes, which often involve dismembered limbs, high-octane explosions, and out-of-control autos flying down cliffs.

The deadliest car crashes in history

But tragically, far too frequently, these nightmares are based on grim fact. Some of these violent events stand out due to the staggering number of lives they claimed. But are widespread traffic fatalities a thing of the leaded-fuel era now? Has the safety of the roadways improved since the past? No, not always.

Over 20,000 motor vehicle fatalities occurred on American roadways in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, representing the greatest percentage rise since 2006.

This is a crisis, according to Pete Buttigieg, head of the United States Department of Transportation. This increase in road fatalities is likely related to drivers engaging in riskier behaviors during the epidemic, like speeding and failing to use safety belts.



So while we careen down the awful road of looking at a selection of some of the deadliest auto accidents in history, be sure to fasten your seatbelts and make sure your airbags are fully functional.

A roller derby game on March 25, 1937, in Salem, Illinois

The deadliest car crashes in history

During the Great Depression, roller derby first gained popularity as endurance races on wheels with monetary awards. Although the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage claims that roller derby was not yet as noisy as it would later become, Nevertheless, their popularity was rising.

So what’s the connection between roller derby and car accidents? The growth of teams that would travel to other contests across the nation was a result of roller derby’s growing popularity. On March 25, 1937, a calamity occured as one of these teams was traveling by bus along route 50 from St. Louis to Cincinnati.

As the bus descended a slope, one of its tires burst. Dick Thomas of Chicago, the driver, lost control and sent the car careening into a bridge abutment. The engine was thrown out of the bus because of how violently it hit the abutment. The car quickly caught fire and exploded. According to the New York Times, witnesses saw 40-foot flame jets burst into the air. One man was thrown out the bus window while his clothing were on fire.

There wasn’t much that could be done to help the people who were confined within. 18 people on board died, including a 4-year-old kid. Another six fatal injuries were also reported by The New York Times, though it’s not clear if those fatalities were bystanders. Five people made it out alive, including the bus driver.

United Kingdom, Gillingham, December 4, 1951

The deadliest car crashes in history

On the evening of December 4, 1951, a column of cadets marched down an unlit portion of Dock Road in Gillingham, Kent, in the United Kingdom. They were traveling to the Royal Naval Barracks from their post. These were boys between the ages of 9 and 13, according to Kent Online. Although the demands of being a cadet were undoubtedly challenging, nothing could have prepared them for the catastrophe that would occur.

John Samson was operating a double-decker bus down the street as the guys marched. Samson himself claimed to be traveling at a speed of 15 to 20 mph. Samson crashed into the column, thus it seems doubtful that this will happen. There were 24 lads dead and 18 more injured. On the bus, nobody was hurt.

The catastrophe affected the entire country. According to The Independent, Parliament looked into the incident, and both King George VI and Winston Churchill conveyed condolences to the families of the victims. A memorial for the victims was built in 1993. Samson received a fine but did not serve any jail time.

You are a man of good repute; it would be insane to put you in jail, the judge said. Everyone who has heard about this situation is deeply sympathetic to you as well as the parents and relatives of these poor children. Samson stopped driving forever.

The fog sign at Pine Mountain, Kentucky, on July 31, 1954

The deadliest car crashes in history

On July 31, 1954, a 1941 Buick carrying 12 individuals over Kentucky’s Pine Mountain. The Mountain Eagle said that the two families in the automobile were traveling together on a brief trip from Milestone to Linefork so that the husbands could “show their wives where it’s at.”

The car’s brakes failed as it climbed the lengthy, winding road over the mountain, according to the Medford Mail Tribune (via Gendisasters). The automobile was then purposefully driven into a ditch by the driver, Tom Brown, to slow it down. It hit the side of a cliff, bounced off the curve to the opposite side of the road, ran into the cliff wall, and overturned.

The fatal aspect of the crash was not itself. The Buick caught on fire as the passengers inside were yelling for help, making the collision particularly deadly. Seven children and 11 other members of the group perished in the blaze. Only one year old was the youngest. Hexie Maxie, the only survivor, attempted in vain to free his loved ones from the vehicle before he passed away from severe burns. The majority of the remains were severely charred beyond recognition.

France’s Le Mans on June 11, 1955

The deadliest car crashes in history

The most dramatically deadly auto accident happened on June 11, 1955, during the renowned 24-hour race in Le Mans. According to GQ, chaos and calamity broke out on the 35th lap of the race. When he was signaled to the pits, British driver Lance Macklin was racing against racer Mike Hawthorn in a Jaguar.

French driver Pierre Levegh was directly in the path of Macklin when Hawthorn braked and veered toward the pit. Levegh, driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR at 150 mph, slammed into the back of Macklin’s Austin Healey before speeding up and off the course.

Levegh crashed backward from the racecar and was instantly killed on the track. His car exploded into fire shrapnel, causing the onlookers to suffer injuries. Ad banners were used as impromptu stretchers to transport victims because the devastation resembled a fight.

Levegh included, 83 people perished, and numerous others were hurt. However, the race went on, apparently because it was thought that if it was stopped, all the spectators would obstruct the required ambulances. In the end, Hawthorn prevailed. The disaster was so severe, according to history, that Mexico and Spain briefly outlawed racing while Germany and Switzerland postponed their Grand Prix events for that year.

Car crash near Fayetteville, North Carolina, on June 6, 1957

The deadliest car crashes in history

Route 301, which ran through Fayetteville, North Carolina, was a major thoroughfare before the interstate highway system. The Fayetteville Observer claims that due to the frequent collisions that took place on this road’s meandering nature, it earned the moniker “Bloody 301.”

On June 6, 1957, 41 migrant workers who were riding on the paneled back of a flatbed truck were involved in the deadliest accident in Bloody 301’s history. The workers’ only form of protection, according to the Daily Times News (via Gendisasters), was a canvas top. Thomas Mackey, the truck’s 20-year-old driver, arrived at a stop sign at a Y intersection.

However, Mackey continued on without stopping and made a quick right turn onto the 301, where he struck a truck transporting potatoes. The trailer turned sideways and threw its occupants out as the farm truck caught fire from the accident.

Bodies in flames began to litter the road. The Fayetteville Observer cited a first responder as saying, “Blood was running in the ditches when we arrived.” It would result in a total of 21 fatalities, making it the deadliest highway accident in American history up to that moment (and still the deadliest disaster in North Carolina history).

28 February 1958 in Prestonburg, Kentucky

The deadliest car crashes in history

Prestonburg, Kentucky, saw the deadliest school bus accident in American history. On February 28, 1958, the potential for an accident was high. Rains from the previous night had resulted in a cloudy and chilly morning, according to the National Guard.

In these circumstances, a Floyd County school bus traveling down Route 23 collided with the back of a wrecker truck while transporting 48 elementary and high school children. The bus plunged into the flooded Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River after veering off the road and over an embankment.

22 children were reportedly able to flee the bus, according to WKYT’s account of the tragedy. The car steadily sank, though, as it floated down the river. 26 kids and the bus driver were lost despite efforts by Navy divers and the National Guard to find them.

Only the 1988 bus accident in Carrollton, Kentucky, which the Courier Journal said involved a converted school bus being utilized by a church group, was comparable to this school bus catastrophe. A drunk driver who was traveling the incorrect way on Route 71 struck it head-on. Larry Mahoney, the intoxicated motorist who caused the accident, lived to serve a 10-year prison sentence.

California, Chualar, September 17, 1963

The deadliest car crashes in history

A flatbed truck that had been turned into a bus in 1963 was packed with workers. According to the Monterey Herald, these employees were braceros, or migrant labourers, or migrant workers who had been welcomed into the country beginning in 1942 as part of a scheme that was first established to address the labor shortages brought on by World War II.

According to the Desert Sun, a Southern Pacific freight train plowed into the homemade bus at 65 mph as it was crossing a railroad track in Salinas Valley. Bus had no prospect of success. Hernandez Tovar, a survivor, remarked that he saw “another impact coming” to the Monterey Herald. He anticipated that the car would collide with something else. Nevertheless, it came to an end.

However, the tragedy’s scope was horrifying. There were 32 bodies among the debris. According to “Grounds for Dreaming,” the incident sparked resentment, particularly over how braceros were treated, and gave rise to the Chicano civil rights movement. Congress ended the bracero program in 1964 as a result of protests against the mistreatment of migrant workers.

United Kingdom, North Yorkshire, Dibbles Bridge, May 27, 1975

The deadliest car crashes in history

Buses are special in fatal auto accidents since they have the highest victim density. At the Dibbles Bridge in Hebden in North Yorkshire, the United Kingdom experienced its worst such accident.

The road twisted and came to the bridge as a bus carrying women on a day excursion to the Yorkshire Dales was traveling at a fast pace, according to the BBC. The bus’s brakes failed at that same time, causing it to drop 16 feet (according to Yorkshire Live) over the side of the bridge. The car overturned and landed in a garden near to a cottage.

The BBC cited Lincoln Seligman as saying, “At the time I hadn’t witnessed death, but to suddenly see 20 or 30 scattered bodies on the grass after they had been taken out was pretty horrific.” Seligman was staying at the cottage and was the first to witness the carnage. Since there was no visibility, numerous cars began colliding with one another.

33 collisions occurred as a result of cars driving into the dust without understanding there was a wall of debris in front of them. Unaware, some observers observed large trucks speeding into the pile at 50 mph. Then, when cars began to explode, the catastrophe got worse.

The Washington Post cited Richard Brucker, one of the witnesses, as saying, “I’ve been in wars, and it appeared to be one. We drove by a variety of horrific scenes, including burning vehicles, cars, and dead bodies.” The nightmare eventually engulfed 164 vehicles, 11 of which were tractor trailers, and caused 151 injuries and 17 fatalities.

Nigeria’s Ife, November 5, 2000

The deadliest car crashes in history

In 2000, a fatal car accident may have been the most spectacular to date. It happened in Ife, Nigeria. According to CNN, a fuel truck on the Ibadan-Ife Highway lost control of its brakes and slammed into a row of cars. According to the AP News, the automobiles were waiting in line at a toll booth when a truck carrying volatile substances plowed straight by them.

The tanker smashed into the automobiles after just passing through a police check, spilling its fuel, which immediately caused a huge explosion. At least 15 cars were destroyed, and up to 150 people died as the fire moved from vehicle to vehicle over a 3-mile radius.

The police roadblock that had stopped the vehicle allegedly had been set up to demand bribes and may have played some role in the accident, according to the UPI. Except for the fact that the Ife fuel truck tragedy likely caused the largest loss of life in the annals of motor accidents, the full scope of the fatalities and destruction remains unknown.

26 July 2009, Mount Pleasant, New York

The deadliest car crashes in history

The thought of being on a highway when a car is coming at you at full speed in the opposite direction is among the most horrifying things you can imagine. Even terrible, though, is if the motorist is unaware of it.

According to Lohud, that is exactly what occurred when a drunk Diane Schuler took a southbound turn onto the Taconic Parkway North in her red Ford minivan. She was accompanied by her five kids, who ranged in age from 2 to 8. She continued driving for two miles before hitting an SUV carrying three people at 1:35 p.m. despite honking from other drivers, frantic headlight flashes, and desperate calls to 911. Schuler was one of the eight fatalities, and the only survivor was a 5-year-old girl who suffered brain damage.

The accident’s most puzzling aspect is that Diane Schuler, by all accounts, did not behave recklessly and was a “PTA Mom.” Reports on toxicology, however, support the opposite. This raises some dispute because, according to previous investigations, Schuler never abused alcohol on a sustained basis (via CNN). Since the tragedy, the state of New York implemented “Leandra’s Law,” making it illegal to drive a child while inebriated.

October 6, 2018 in Schoharie, New York

The deadliest car crashes in history

Schoharie, New York saw the deadliest limousine accident. NPR reported that on October 6, 2018, Axel Steenburg celebrated his wife’s 30th birthday by hiring a 2001 Ford Excursion Limo. The limousine’s brakes failed on a downhill section while traveling to a brewery. It sped through at 100 miles per hour, smashed through a T-intersection, careered past a little store, killing two onlookers, and then crashed into a fence. Twenty persons died in all, including the driver.

A later examination revealed that the limousine had complained about braking problems a month earlier. Nauman Hussain, the driver, nevertheless gave the limo permission to keep going. He was accused of 20 counts of criminal negligence homicide and second-degree manslaughter.

He entered a guilty plea and was given a sentence of five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. Many believed that this punishment was too light, but the court said, “The fact that 20 people lost their lives and the punishment was probation and community service just doesn’t seem appropriate. However, there are problems with the facts that relate to the defendant’s guilt.”

Canada, La Prairie, February 19, 2020

The deadliest car crashes in history

Driving in adverse weather is obviously dangerous, and people are accustomed to being advised to stay inside when it’s bad outside. On February 19, 2020, La Prairie, Quebec, demonstrated how risky this may be. According to The Guardian, at around 12:30 p.m., the winds and snow ramped up, causing a spontaneous blizzard, turning this Montreal suburb into an icy tomb. There was an instantaneous whiteout with no visibility.

The Montreal Gazette reports that Highway 15 turned into a demolition derby at that point. Then minivans, trucks, cars, and even a school bus began colliding with one another. A major pileup involving 200 cars occurred as nearby hospitals activated Code Orange, signaling their readiness for a large number of victims.

In this case, there were undoubtedly many injuries—nearly 70. Fortunately, only two people were killed in the carnage; however, their bodies were trapped in their crushed vehicles after the collision, and the chaos prevented rescuers from reaching them until 6:00 p.m. that day.

Mexico State, Mexico Federal Highway, November 7, 2021

The deadliest car crashes in history

Oddly enough, shampoo was involved in one of the deadliest crashes ever. At 12:45 PM on November 7, 2021. According to Truckerworld, a vehicle transporting shampoo base was making its way to a series of toll booths on the Mexican Federal Highway, which connects Mexico City with Puebla state. According to The Guardian, the transport’s brakes failed as it moved closer to the tolls on a very long descending slope.

The vehicle reportedly crashed into six cars, dragged them, and released over 50 gallons of a flammable white fluid (it is unknown if this was the shampoo base), which led to a horrible explosion, according to the Mexico Daily Post. 19 persons, including the truck’s driver, were killed when six automobiles and the truck were turned to cinders. Three people were hurt. Videos of the disaster that were horrifying circulated on social media.


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