Whitesburg, KY Auto Plunges Down Mountain, July 1954


Whitesburg, Ky. - (UP) - An automobile loaded with 12 people crashed into a cliff on steep Pine Mountain near here Saturday and 11 of the passengers, including seven children, burned to death.
A spokesman for the National Safety Council at Chicago said he believed it by far the biggest one-car crash death toll in history.
The lone survivor, HEXIE MAXIE, was near death from severe burns, but he was able to tell state police that the car's driver deliberately ran it into a ditch to stop it as it plunged, without any brakes, down the steep and winding mountain highway.
He said the car swerved into the ditch, then scraped a rock cliff as it came to a curve about 100 yards past the summit of the hill. It plunged across the road, hit the opposite cliff, turned over on its side, and burst into flames.
Whitesburg Fire Chief Raymond Day, among the first to reach the scene, said the flames broke out immediately, making the car "a fiery tomb for those poor people inside."
"It was a pitiful thing," he said. "Some of those who were nearby told me the people inside were screaming and crying to get out, but that the car was an ember in two minutes."
Aubrey Garber, Whitesburg, said the impact of the car hitting the cliffs apparently was not so great. "The damage to the car wouldn't have amounted to $50 except for the fire ... that was what killed them," Garber said.
The victims included MRS. ELSIE MAXIE, and her three children, BOBBY RAY, 4; BETTY SUE, 5; and a year-old baby.
TOM BROWN, 41, the driver; his wife, LULA, and four of their children - SHIRLEY JEAN, 6; HAYDEN, 5; GERALDINE, 2; and CHRISTINE, 9. The other victim was a girl, MARTHA GIBSON, a friend of the Maxies'.

Medford Mail Tribune Oregon 1954-08-01