Fame doesn't save big names in car crashes

The death of a champion wrestler makes him next in a long line of celebs who died without warning on the road. James Dean, Lady Di, Grace Kelly and George S. Patton are victims; now, so is Randy Savage.

Just because you're famous doesn't mean you're immune to danger or death. The sudden demise of larger-than-life pro wrestler Randy Savage in an auto accident in Florida this weekend is a reminder to everyone how treacherous it can be to operate a motor vehicle.

Mr. Savage, a charismatic tough guy known to his family as Randy Mario Poffo and to legions of rabid wrestling fans as "Macho Man," drove his Jeep Wrangler over a median and into a tree Friday morning and died at a hospital in Largo, Fla. He was 58.

The former champ of the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling, who grew up in Chicago, is perhaps best known as Hulk Hogan's fiercest rival.

Mr. Hogan told the Los Angeles Times he and Mr. Savage had begun speaking to each other recently for the first time in 10 years. "He had so much life in his eyes and in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him," Mr. Hogan told the Times.

Like Mr. Savage, the first person to die in a car accident had tasted fame, though on a much smaller scale.

Mary Ward, a renowned 19th century scientist, mother of eight and great-grandmother to actress Sarah "Lalla" Ward (Romana in the TV show "Doctor Who"), was pitched from a steam-powered car while navigating a bend in the road near her home in northern Ireland more than 150 years ago, according to Wikipedia.

Mrs. Ward fell under the car, which was going no faster than 4 mph, and died from head injuries and a broken neck on Aug. 31, 1869.

Toughness doesn't save anyone, as the fates of Mr. Savage and Gen. George S. Patton illustrate. Patton, the irascible Army leader, was bullet-proof on the battlefield but was felled for good on Dec. 9, 1945, from injuries he sustained in a car crash.

The nature of such tragedies stir emotions within us, especially when the victims are beautiful women.

When Lady Diana of the royal family was killed on Aug. 31, 1997, in a high-speed crash, the world stood still in hushed silence. Grace Kelly, the princess of Monaco, died Sept. 13, 1982, after suffering a stroke while driving and plunging down a mountainside, leaving mourners aghast.

Death doesn't acknowledge holidays. Billy Martin, the scrappy, tough-as-nails New York Yankee second baseman and fiery manager of the Yankees, Tigers, A's, Twins and Rangers, died in a one-car crash on Christmas day in 1989.

Auto crash deaths can be mild or wild. Steve Allen, a late-night talk-show host before Jay Leno was the Next Big Thing, died in his sleep Oct. 30, 2000, after a fender bender that ruptured his heart tissues. Jessica Savitch, a stately NBC reporter, died Oct. 23, 1983, after the car she was riding in plunged into the Delaware Canal.

When a head-on collision left heartthrob actor James Dean dead on Sept. 30, 1955, Americans, especially young girls, sobbed uncontrollably. NASCAR fans still cry over the driver of the "3" car, Dale Earnhardt, who died Feb. 18, 2001, in a crash on the track at the Daytona 500.

Lisa Lopes, is among celebrities who hit trees and died. The singer hit two trees and died on April 25, 2002. Marc Bolan, a singer for T-Rex ("Bang A Gong"), crashed into a tree and died a quarter of a decade earlier on Sept. 16, 1977.

Tractor-trailers also pose true danger to drivers. Actress Jayne Mansfield was killed June 29, 1967, after smashing into the back-side of a tractor-trailer. Singer Harry Chapin died July 16, 1981, after a tractor-trailer rear-ended him.

A teen-ager driving drunk killed comedian Sam Kinison in a crash on April 19, 1992. Fellow comedian Ernie Kovacs died Jan. 13, 1962, after smashed into a utility pole.

Movie stars have met their maker in car crashes as well. Cowboy actor Tom Mix died Oct. 12, 1940, after driving into a gulley caused by a washed-away bridge. Desmond Llewelyn, “Q” in the James Bond movies, died Dec. 19, 1999, in a head-on collision.

Sometimes famous people die when they're not even in the car. Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With the Wind," died Aug. 16, 1949, five days after being struck by a speeding car as she tried to walk across a street.

You can email TorqueNews.com's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected]

Image source: Wikipedia

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