Tag Archives: Accident

Classic Hollywood #30

The Strange Tale Of How Obi-Wan Kenobe (Sir Alec Guinness) Eerily And Accurately Told James Dean He Was Going To Die In His New Car

James Dean Ursula Andress 1955 8 29 ph Earl Leaf

James Dean and Ursula Andress attend a benefit, one month before Dean’s death in a auto crash

James Dean is seen here talking to one of his “girlfriends,” the 19-year-old Swiss actress Ursula Andress. This photograph was taken at a benefit for the “Thalian’s Ball” on August 29, 1955 at Ciro’s in Hollywood and shows them in a non-combative mood. The sexually ambiguous Dean may have been set up on dates with Andress by the studio publicity department. Regardless, press accounts at the time refer to Andress and Dean as dating one another.

Even though Andress spoke very little English, their relationship was considered very stormy.  At one time it was reported by a tabloid that Dean was said to be taking German language lessons so that they could “argue in another language.” Andress would go on to fame as Honey Ryder, the first “Bond Girl” in 1962’s Dr. No.

Dean, an avid auto racer, agreed to purchase a new sports car on September 21 1955, a silver Porsche 550 Spyder that he nicknamed “Little Bastard” which was then painted on the car.

Two days later on September 23, Dean was eating at the trendy Villa Capri Restaurant on McCadden Street in Hollywood and spotted actor Alec Guinness trying to get a table without any success. Guinness was exhausted having just arrived from London on a 16 hour flight for his first trip to Hollywood. As Guinness and his companion, screenwriter Thelma Moss exited the restaurant, Dean ran after them to intercede. Continue reading

The World’s First Fatal Plane Crash Could Have Killed The President – 1908

Orville Wright Of Wright Brothers Fame Piloted The First Fatal Airplane Crash

Orville Wright First Fatal Plane Crash

Orville Wright and Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge (right) being attended to after Wright’s airplane crashed at Fort Myer – September 17, 1908

Everyone knows that the Wright Brothers undertook the world’s first successful motorized airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903. What most people do not know is that five years later in 1908, Orville Wright was piloting a plane that crashed causing the first airplane fatality.

What even fewer people know is that the first fatality could easily have been President Theodore Roosevelt.

For several weeks beginning in September 1908, Orville Wright had been conducting test flights with the army at Fort Myer, a military post just outside of Washington D.C..

On September 14, it was reported that President Roosevelt had said he wanted to fly with Orville Wright on one of the upcoming test flights. Wright wisely demurred saying, “I have heard the report that President Roosevelt wants to ascend with me. I’m sorry, I don’t think the President of the United States should take such chances. Of course, flying in the air is as safe as riding in a streetcar, but there are accidents that might happen. Aside from my relatives, such an accident to me would mean nothing, but the Nation would be the sufferer if the President was injured or killed.”

Those who knew President Roosevelt said he would insist on flying with Wright when he returned to Washington D.C. from Oyster Bay, NY the following week. Fate would intervene in the President’s plans to fly with Wright.

Three days later on September 17, 1908 Orville Wright was at the controls flying with pilot Lt. Thomas Selfridge, who was Secretary of the Aerial Experiment Association. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #8 – Dreamland Coney Island Part 2

Coney Island’s Dreamland Amusement Park 1904-1911 – Part 2

Coney Island Dreamland general view

Coney Island- Dreamland midway on a crowded day

Continuing from part one of our postcard journey through Dreamland Amusement Park at Coney Island, we examine the other features of the park.

Coney Island Dreamland The Ballroom InteriorConey Island Dreamland Bathing Beach

At the turn of the century, dancing was possibly the most popular amusement at Coney Island, even more so than bathing at the beach. The Dreamland ballroom reflected this popularity by being the largest ballroom ever built in the United States. Continue reading

The Strange Origin Of Modern Building Fire Laws In Britain

Why Every Employee Must Be Able To Reach A Fire Exit In Under Two And A Half Minutes

Empire Theatre Fire photo Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries

Empire Theatre Fire photo Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries

The Telegraph just featured an interesting interview with Professor of Fire and Structures at Edinburgh University, Luke Bisby.

Professor Bisby does something I also do as well, which is when I enter a building I have never visited, I check how to get out of the building and where the fire exits are. Of course he looks at other factors that the average person wouldn’t take into account such as what is hanging on the walls and what the carpeting is made of.

Among the topics discussed was: why there are such tough safety rules in place in case of a fire in office worker’s buildings in the U.K.. The answer he provides is fascinating:

It may not be a surprise to learn that there are tight regulations surrounding the positioning and width of fire exits, and their location relative to workers’ desks, in a modern office.

But the basis for the stringent rules, which state that every employee must be able to reach a fire exit within two-and-a-half minutes, and that fire doors must be wide enough for all employees to pass through within the same time frame, is scarcely to be believed.

“This two-and-a-half minutes is the fundamental basis on which the built environment can exist,” Prof Bisby said. “You would presume there must be a good reason for it.

“The reason is that two-and-a-half minutes is, I’m told, the mean length of God Save the Queen. The British national anthem, when played in full, by a concert orchestra.”

The stipulation can be traced back to a fire at Edinburgh’s Empire Palace Theatre in 1911 which broke out during a performance by a French illusionist named The Great Lafayette, he explained. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #32

1915 Subway Explosion Kills Seven, Injures Scores: 7th Avenue Between 24th and 25th Streets

This photograph taken on September 24, 1915 looking east across Seventh Avenue between 25th and 24th Streets shows the extent of a tragedy that took the lives of seven people and injured more than 100.

At about 7:50 a.m. on September 22, 1915 during the subway excavation for a new line, an explosion followed by a massive street collapse threw 7th Avenue into a scene of pandemonium and carnage.  A blast of dynamite caused the temporary roadway of wood planking to give way. A trolley loaded with passengers plunged 30 feet into the abyss created by the cave in. A beer truck minus the driver also fell into the excavation.

The reason more people were not killed was because the street undulated for a few seconds before collapsing which allowed precious time for people on the street to scatter to safety.

The motorman of the northbound trolley, John Mayne said, “The car sank just where I stopped it. I had no stop at Twenty-fourth street and there was no warning there. When I was half way to Twenty-fifth street I saw a flagman and set my brakes. As I set the brakes I felt the earth going from under me. The next thing I knew I was being pulled out of hell.”

Fanny Borie, 18,  of Brooklyn was on the trolley, on her way to work when it went down into the hole. “When the car started to sink there were terrible screams, and I think I fainted,” she said. “I remember feeling people tugging at my feet, as I was buried under some timbers. Then I lost consciousness and came to again when I was being carried up a ladder to the street.” Continue reading

The Forgotten Brooklyn Elevated Train Crash Of 1923

June 25, 1923 Intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues

Photo © Osmund Leviness

“Those who died were fortunate it seemed to me when I looked inside the cars. As long as I live I can never forget it. All the people were in a mass there, struggling and screaming, with blood running over them. They all seemed to be bleeding or stained with blood. One woman’s head was terribly cut on top, and one jaw seemed to be crushed in. The hand of another woman was almost cut off. One woman I took out through a window died a few minutes after I carried her into the post office. I can’t forget the inside of those cars. They looked like my idea of purgatory.” –  Traffic Officer Joseph J. Ryan who was on the scene immediately after the crash.

This incredible accident happened 89 years ago, Monday, June 25, 1923  as two cars of the BMT derailed and plunged 35 feet into the street at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn. Continue reading

Was Only One Piece Of Baggage Saved From the Titanic?

The Baggage Mystery of The Titanic

We continue from last week to look at the lesser known stories surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. This time we examine the story of the one piece of baggage that seems to have made it off the Titanic.

When the Titanic’s passengers were being loaded into the lifeboats, they were told by the crew they could not bring any luggage with them. Some survivors did bring small bags containing personal effects, but most carried nothing with them.

So how did a canvas bag three feet high and two feet thick filled with personal belongings of a Titanic passenger get back to New York? Continue reading

The Forgotten Man Responsible for Titanic Mania

The Amazing Story of Titanic’s Last Surviving Crew Member

Titanic Survivors in Lifeboats © Philip Weiss

April 15, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. While the famous and infamous have had their Titanic stories told, one man’s remarkable story remains unexamined.

Walter Belford first came forward and identified himself as a member of the Titanic’s crew in 1955 to writer Walter Lord who was working on a book about the Titanic which would be called A Night To Remember.

When Belford had reached the age of 92 in 1962, he was believed to be the last surviving crew member of the Titanic.  On April 15 of that year he was interviewed by the the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.

Belford told his story of seeing Captain E.J. Smith standing calmly on the bridge as the great liner was going down. Belford was the chief night baker of the ship and described how he was preparing rolls for the next day when the Titanic struck the iceberg. In dramatic fashion he told how after the last life boat had left the ship, the Captain addressed the remaining crewmen by saying, “Well boys, I’ve done the best I can for you. Now it’s in your own hands. Do the best you can to save yourselves.”

Belford then went over to the side of the ship and jumped overboard Continue reading

Death By Root Beer

A Soda Tax Would Not Have Prevented Henry Koerner’s Death

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t like soda and would like to tax people to discourage them from drinking it. But it wasn’t obesity or the root beer itself that caused Henry Koerner’s demise, it was a bizarre accident.

In the August 20, 1892 New York Times, a brief story appears about Henry Koerner, who worked for Lighte Brothers (a mineral water manufacturer) at 509 East 17th Street and how he was killed when the root beer he was loading on to a wagon exploded.

When Koerner slipped on a fruit peeling on the sidewalk, the ten pound pressurized tank of root beer he was carrying dropped on the stone pavement and exploded like a charge of dynamite.  The tank shattered in all directions with one piece going right through Koerner’s head, killing him instantly. The explosion was so powerful, the top of the tank went 150 feet into the air and fell to the ground with a deafening crash.  The poor man left behind a wife and three children.

I’m sure there was little if any compensation for his loss of life, as accidents like this were dismissed as being part of the hazards of working.  Below is the original newspaper story.