12 Famous People Who Died in Car Crashes
Celebrity deaths often make headlines around the world. Whether it’s a movie star or a champion athlete, fans mourn the loss of significant Hollywood stars on social media and hold candlelight vigils in their honor. Celebrities, just like us normal folk, pass away all the time, and while many die peacefully in their sleep, there are some who die in tragic and heartbreaking car accidents long before their time should be up.
Throughout history, we have seen many famous individuals lose their lives in car accidents, which often leaves their fans and loved ones in shock and disbelief. It can be hard to process these tragic deaths, but they are a reminder of just how fragile life really is. As a warning to those who continue to speed and drive recklessly, here is a look at several celebrities who lost their lives in car accidents.
1. Diana, Princess of Wales
Princess Diana became a global icon known for her tireless charity work, fashion sense, and charisma. She was the first wife of King Charles III when he was still a prince. Diana was also the mother of Prince Harry and the future King, Prince William.
On August 31, 1997, Diana died at 36 after suffering injuries in a car accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. Her partner, Dodi Fayed, was also killed in the crash as they attempted to evade the paparazzi. The driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140, Henri Paul, also died in the crash and was held responsible.
Investigators discovered Paul had mixed alcohol and prescription pills, causing him to lose control while speeding. Only Diana’s bodyguard survived. People worldwide and in the United Kingdom mourned Diana’s shocking death. Her funeral at Westminster Abbey attracted a global audience of 2.5 billion people.
2. James Dean
Cultural icon James Dean became synonymous with the disillusioned and troubled teen Jim Stark he portrayed in the 1955 classic film Rebel Without A Cause. In 1954, Dean pursued his passion for motorsport racing. He competed in a few races before Warner Bros. forbade him from racing during the filming of Giant. Once production wrapped, Dean purchased a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder and entered the Salinas Road Race on October 1.
On September 30, 1955, Dean was speeding down US Route 466 to the race when he crashed into a 1950 Ford Tudor driven by 23-year-old student Donald Turnupseed. The 24-year-old actor died at the hospital on arrival after suffering severe injuries. After an inquest, investigators determined Dean’s high speed as the cause of the accident. His funeral occurred on October 8 at the Fairmount Friends Church in Indiana, with over 2,000 fans mourning outside.
3. Paul Walker
Actor Paul Walker is best known for his role as Brian O’Connor in the Fast and Furious franchise. While shooting the seventh installment in the series, Walker died at 40 in a single-vehicle collision on November 30, 2013.
Walker was in the passenger seat of financial advisor Roger Rodas’ 2005 Porsche Carrera GT when it slammed into a concrete lamp post and two trees on Hercules Street in California. Authorities blamed the crash on the car’s speed and the age of the tires.
Rodas and Walker suffered severe burns and injuries. Walker’s family buried his ashes at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb helped complete their brother’s unfinished work in Furious 7, which hit theatres in 2015. The film features a tribute song to Walker, “See You Again,” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.
4. Anne Heche
Actress Anne Heche rose to fame in the 90s and 2000s, before slowing down her acting career in recent years. She was known for her high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres as well as her roles in Donnie Brasco, Six Days and Seven Nights, and Psycho. On August 5, 2022, the 53-year-old actress was involved in three car crashes while driving her Mini Clubman.
On the third collision, she crashed into a house that caught fire, trapping her inside her vehicle. It took firefighters 45 minutes to get to Heche, who suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation. She remained in a coma at the hospital for a few weeks as they searched for an organ recipient. When that failed, she was officially taken off life support on August 14, sending shockwaves through Hollywood.
5. Anton Yelchin
Many celebrity deaths involving car accidents occur due to speeding or intoxication. In Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s case, his death was a freak accident that occurred in his driveway outside his Studio City, Los Angeles house. On June 18, 2016, Yelchin exited his Jeep Grand Cherokee to check his gate or retrieve his mail. The jeep suddenly rolled back down the driveway, pinning Yelchin against a security fence and pillar.
When he failed to show up for rehearsals, his friends went to his home and found him dead the following day after midnight. Yelchin was 27 at the time of his death. The Los Angeles County Coroner announced the cause of death as blunt traumatic asphyxia.
6. Marc Bolan
A pioneer of the glam rock movement, Marc Bolan was best known as the leader of the 70s band T. Rex. The group gained widespread fame with the hit single “Ride a White Swan.” Despite owning several cars, Bolan never learned to drive due to fear of premature death in a car accident. Sadly, Bolan’s fear turned into reality.
On September 16, 1977, Bolan sat in the passenger seat of Gloria Jones Mini 1275GT in southwest London. After a night of drinking wine, Jones lost control crossing the humpback bridge and crashed, striking a fence and a tree before coming to a complete standstill. Bolan died instantly at the scene of the crash, with the site now a shrine to the music legend. His cremation occurred at the Golders Green Crematorium, which now includes two plaques dedicated to his memory.
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7. Ryan Dunn
Ryan Dunn became an instant star performing pranks and stunts on the MTV series Jackass. On June 20, 2011, Dunn and Jackass Number Two production assistant Zachary Hartwell died in a single-vehicle accident in Chester County, Pennsylvania. After spending the night drinking at a West Chester bar, Dunn crashed his Porsche 911 GT3 into a tree, bursting into flames. Law enforcement blamed the crash on Dunn’s alcohol level being above the legal limit and his excessive speeding.
8. Princess Grace
In the 1950s, actress Grace Kelly became a household name with roles in High Noon, Dial M For Murder, and Rear Window. At 26, Grace retired from acting to marry the Prince of Monaco, Prince Rainier, becoming Princess Grace. On September 13, 1982, Grace and her teen daughter Princess Stephanie were driven back to Monaco from Roc Angel when she suffered a mild cerebral hemorrhage.
The medical episode resulted in Grace losing control of her 1971 Rover P6, crashing 120 feet down the mountainside. Grace sustained multiple injuries, including damage to the brain. The following night, on September 14, Rainier took Grace off life support. She was 52 at the time of her death. Her funeral occurred at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate with 400 guests in attendance, including Diana, Princess of Wales, Nancy Regan, and Cary Grant.
9. Randy Savage
Professional wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage became a household name while performing for the WWE and WCW in the 80s and 90s. Savage was easily recognizable thanks to his distinctive raspy voice and unique personality. On May 20, 2011, Savage suffered a sudden heart attack while driving his Jeep Wrangler in Seminole, Florida, with his wife. He lost control of his jeep and crashed into a tree, dying at the scene of the wreck.
The medical examiner discovered Savage had an enlarged heart causing a sudden heart attack. They ruled the cause of death a heart attack and not an accident. Savage’s family cremated his body and spread the ashes around a tree on his property in Largo, Florida.
10. Jayne Mansfield
Born in 1933, actress and singer Jayne Mansfield achieved widespread fame and sex symbol status in her short career throughout the 1950s and 60s. Tragically her life and career were cut short in a horrific car accident.
On June 28, 1967, the 35-year-old Mansfield performed in Biloxi, Mississippi, before departing that night for New Orleans. She traveled with boyfriend Sam Brody, driver Ronnie Harrison, and her three children, Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska, in a 1966 Buick Electra 225.
Early in the morning on June 29, the Buick crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer on US Highway 90. The three adults died instantly, while the kids survived with minor injuries. Three-year-old Mariska Hargitay, who survived the crash, currently stars in Law & Order: SVU. Mansfield’s funeral took place on July 3 in Pennsylvania. Her final television appearance occurred ten days before her death on the Joey Bishop Show.
11. Cliff Burton
In 1982, iconic bassist Cliff Burton joined the thrash metal band Metallica. Four years later Metallica was on the Damage Inc. tour in Sweden to support their new album, Master of Puppets, when disaster struck. While on the tour bus, Burton and guitarist Kirk Hammett either drew cards or straws to determine who would get the better bunk on the tour bus. Burton won and chose the bunk at the back as it was more comfortable.
On September 27, 1986, Burton was sleeping in the back when the bus suddenly veered off the road, flipping onto the grass. Burton was violently tossed through the window as it flipped, with the bus landing on top of him. The bus driver claimed he slipped on ice, but other band members believe he was drunk at the wheel.
Burton died instantly at the age of 24, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest bassists of all time. Burton’s family and friends spread his ashes at Maxwell Ranch. The band included a tribute song, “To Live Is To Die,” off the And Justice For All album to mark the memory of their departed friend.
12. Leslie Jordan
Leslie Jordan built a solid career with memorable roles in Will & Grace, American Horror Story, and Call Me Kat. On October 24, 2022, the 67-year-old actor was on his way to the set of Call Me Kat to film his scenes. He suffered a sudden cardiac dysfunction causing him to crash his BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe into a building on Romaine Street in Hollywood. Sadly, Jordan died at the scene of the crash.
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