Fincastle, VA Head On Crash Kills Eight, Jan 1955


Fincastle, Va., Jan. 8 (AP) - A speeding automobile - purchased only a few hours
earlier - hurtled out of control on a U.S. 220 hill near here late last night, rammed head-on into another car and in the resulting tangle of wreckage eight persons died.
State police blamed "wantonly excessive speed"
for the thunderous crash two miles south of here and called it "a tragic and appalling thing." It was the most costly two-car collision in Virginia History.
State Trooper H. L. Holzbach said the fast-traveling southbound car, carrying five Negro men, left skid marks for 1,000 feet up the hill as its driver apparently fought desperately to regain control of the runaway vehicle.
Killed instantly were JULIAN L. WILLS, 64, of Fincastle, and his wife, BERTHA, 63. Their son WILMER REA WILLS, 39, died an hour later.
Two of the five Negro men in the runaway car - WILLIAM HENRY CLAY, JR., 20, of Rt. 1, Troutville, owner of the vehicle, and GILBERT WILEY, 21, also of Rt. 1, Troutville - were killed instantly. GEORGE VINCENT BROWN, 21, of Fincastle, lived only a few minutes. ROBERT PETTUS, JR., 16, of Fincastle, died early today in a Roanoke hospital.
JOE LOUIS WILLIS, 16, of Fincastle, died at 6:50 p.m. today 18 1/2 hours after the wreck.
Trooper Holzbach said only four hours before the 11:35 p.m. crash he saw CLAY purchase the car in Fincastle and watched him attach license plates.
It was the nation's second multiple-fatality crash of the day. Seven persons died yesterday when two cars collided on U.S. 70-80 about 21 miles west of Lordsburg, N.M.

The Monroe News-Star Louisiana 1955-01-09