Indianapolis, IN speedway accidents, Aug 1909


Second Fatal Accident Occurs at Indianapolis Speedway Races


Driver of Merz Car Uninjured When Exploding Tire Wrecks Car



William A. Bourque, driver.
Harry Holcomb, mechanician.


Cliff Litterall, mechanician, killed by racer on way to meeting.
Elmer Grampton, six-year-old boy, killed on way to races.


James West, Indianapolis, spectator.
H. H. Jelleff, Franklin, Ind., spectator.
Claude Kellum, mechanician.


Henry Thompkins, Indianapolis, spectator, seriously hurt.
James Atliff, Indianapolis, spectator, in dangerous condition.
Bruce Keene, driver, cut about head and neck.
James Schiller, the mechanician with Keene, suffered a slight fracture of the skull.

Indianapolis, Aug. 21. - Two spectators and one auto mechanician were killed and two seriously injured when a National automobile, No. 10 driven by Merz, exploded a front tire and dashed through a fence into the crowd on the end of the first turn of the motor speedway today.

The accident occurred just before the bleachers in which were 60,000 spectators closely packed and that more were not killed was due only to the fact that but few were at the fence.

The Merz machine took one somersault, landing through the fence. Merz was pinned beneath the machine and his mechanician, Claude Kellum, trown far over onto the ground. Merz, while lying under the machine, turned off the engine. He escaped in some miraculous mannerwith a few bruises. Those killed were

Benjamin J. Logan, Indianapolis; R. H. Jolleff, Franklin, Ind., and Claude Kellum, the latter dying shortly after at the track emergency hospital.

Henry Thompkins of Indianapolis was seriously injured. Both arms were smashed and he had a bad scalp wound.

James Atliff of Indianapolis is also in a dangerous condition in the emergency hospital at the track.

Driver Uninjured.

Merz was driven back to the start, where he was greeted by his father, who had been told he was dead. His statement of the accident was,

"My right front tire exploded and threw my car through the outer railing in the crowd. The car turned over, pinning me beneath it, but the only injury I received was a slight wrench. My mechanician, Claude Kellum, was tossed out and hurt, he later dying. We were several feet from the fence at the time of the accident and running fine. I am not hurt."

Two laps after the National crashed into the crowd, Bruce Keene Marmon machine skidded on the back stretch, turning turtle, and he was badly injured about the head.

The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK 22 Aug 1909



Big Racing Car Loses Tire, Crashing Through Fence Into Group of Sightseers Near Grand Stand.

Indianapolis, Ind., Aug. 22. - Three more lives were sacrificed today in the saturnalla of speed which has inaugurated the great Indianapolis motor speedway. One mechanician and two spectators paid the pendalty of their lives. The fatal accident came when a National car, driven by Charles Merz, in the 300-mile race, lost a tire and crashed through a fence into a group of spectators.

The dead:

CLAUDE KELLUM of Indianapolis, mechanician in the National car.
ORA JOLLEFFE, Trafalgar, Ind.
An unidentified man.

Besides the three deaths, two serious injuries resulted during the day:

Henry Tapking of Indianapolis suffered in the fatal wreck a compound fracture of his right arm, a broken nose and several scalp wounds.

Bruce Keene, the driver of a Marmon car in the same race, crashed into a post shortly after the National was wrecked and was badly cut about the neck and head.

James Schiller, the mechanician with Keene, suffered a slight fracture of the skull, but the physicians say he is in no danger.

After the second accident the officials decided to call off the 300-mile race when the leading car - a Jackson, with Lee Lynch at the wheel - had covered 235 miles. Ralph de Palma in a Fiat was second, and Stillman in a Marmon, third.

The race will be declared no contest and the great Indianapolis speedwater trophy will be raced for again.

By a strange freak of fortune, Merz escaped from the terrible wreck with hardly a scratch. He fell under the car when it turned a somersault through the air and down into a gulley near the side of the track. He was in imminent danger of being burned to death, but by marvelous presence of mind, he was able to shut off the engine and thus save himself from a horrible death.

Kellum was hurled out of the car and landed in the gulley some distance from the twisted mass of steel and iron into which the speed machine had been converted.

Seven Dead During Week.

The deaths today raises the toll of the speedway to seven lives this week. Wm. A. Bourque and his mechanician, Harry Holcomb of the Knox racing team, were killed in an eaccident in the 250-mile race Thursday. Cliff Lyterall, a Stoddard-Dayton mechanician, was killed when hit by a big racing machine while on the way out to the speedway. On Thursday Elmer Grampton, a 6-year-old boy, was killed by the automobile of Dr. Clark E. Day of this city, while the latter was on his way to the speedway for the first day's races.

Tonight there is a heavy pall of grief hanging over the entire city and speed-mad automobilists drive more carefully than they did in the strets earlier in the week. The frightful penalty paid for a few broken speed records is greater than was bargained for when Indianapolis threw open the gates of the "greatest speedway in the world."

The fatal accident thoday occurred in the south turn of the immense elipse and near the open stand that contained more than 50,000 people. The thousands in the grandstand did not see the accident, although they knew one of the cars had crashed through the fence. A few minutes after the smash, Merz was brought to the official's stand and a mighty shout of joy went up when it was seen he was safe, and it was not for some time that the spectators realized the gravity of the situation.

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 22 Aug 1909