Detroit, MI Chain Reaction Crash, Apr 1971



Detroit (UPI) - A car traveling at 100 miles per hour jumped a freeway median and landed atop another automobile Sunday, setting off a chain reaction collision in which seven persons died and 19 were injured.
A five-year-old boy was the only survivor in a car in which his parents and two grandparents perished.
The accident was described by veteran Detroit traffic officers as "the worst mess we've ever seen."
The victims were identified as JOHN GIDDENS, 20, Ecorse; HELEN HAWKINS, 25, no address; WILLIAM WESTPHAL, 28, Dearborn Heights; DR. JACK DERDERIAN, 40, Wayne; his wife, MARGARET, 40; his father, HAGOP ALBER DERDERIAN, 78; and the elder DERDERIAN'S wife, DOROTHY, 75, Dearborn Heights.
MISS HAWKINS and three other persons were passengers in GIDDENS' car, which police said was traveling eastbound at a high rate of speed, jumped the guard rail and landed on the DERDERIAN auto in the westbound lanes. WESTPHAL was killed when his auto slammed into the wreckage of the two cars.
"We have a witness, also eastbound, who said GIDDENS' car went by him at 100 miles an hour," said Lt. William Wolfington of the Accident Prevention Bureau. "This witness saw GIDDENS' car go out of control hit and fly up over the guardrail, and smash down on top of an oncoming westbound auto."
The DERDERIAN'S son, LANCE, 5, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Police said many of the other persons injured were in serious or critical condition at two Detroit hospitals. The other injured were in GIDDENS' car and in three others which were caught in a chain reaction crash behind the three in which the victims died.
The accident occurred on the Edsel Ford Freeway in western Detroit late Sunday afternoon. All six lanes of the road, jammed with Easter Holiday motorists, were brought to a virtual standstill for over an hour until the wreckage was cleared and traffic began moving at normal speeds again.
Adding to the traffic jam were hundreds of spectators thronged to the freeway embankment and a nearby overpass to watch rescue efforts.

Traverse City Record-Eagle Michigan 1971-04-12