Brighton Beach, NY fatal wreck in auto race, Aug 1909


Louis Cole, Mechanic, Dies In Auto Collision In Brighton Race.


Their Stearns Car Collides With Acme Car - Gross' Spine Broken, Other Crew Unhurt.

[Special Dispatch to the Baltimore Sun.]

New York, Aug. 27. - One of the worst accidents in the history of Eastern auto track racing occurred at Brighton Beach tonight shortly after 11 o'clock. By the collapse of the wheels or possibly by collision with another car the Stearns No. 6 was broken into a mass of wreckage. Laurente Gross, the driver, was fatally injured, while his mechanician, Louis Cole, was killed.

Opionions are divided as to how the accident actually occurred and what caused it. Even the nearest spectators could not decide whether the car had been in collision or whether a skid had sent it on its way to destruction.

Cole was dead when he reached the hospital in the infield, and examination by the physicians showed that Gross had suffered a broken spine.

The Stearns car had been in the paddock, and it went out on the track just as the Acme No. 3 and the Renault swept down the homestretch. Th three cars reached a point opposite the paddock together. Seemingly the Acme skidded as it began to take the turn, and the Stearns either hit it in the rear or itself skidded.

Saw Machine Fly in Air.

At any rate, the spectators saw the Stearns car fly in the air at least five feet and turn over three times before it scattered over the track a mass of wreckage, distributed for a distance of 200 feet, hardly enough being left in one place to make it look like an auto. In the midst of the wreck lay the two unfortunate men.

By a miracle the Renault car escaped, barely missing the fence as its driver buried it around into the back stretch.

Other cars were flying down the home stretch and some minutes passed before they could be stopped and the men picked up. As soon as possible they were hurried to the hospital.

The race was stopped temporarily while another car dragged off the largest parts of what was left of Stearns, and laborers picked up the hundreds of pieces of junk that lay scattered about.

Acme Car Has Broken Axle.

Apparently confirming the general belief that the accident was due to a collision, was the fact that the Acme No. 3 had a broken axle. It was necessary to withdrawn [sic] the car from the race, which was resumed after a delay of 15 minutes.

At the time of the accident dozens of women in the grandstand fainted. Their nerves had been unstrung by the explosion of a gasoline tank on the Allen Kingston car, and it required only the second tragedy to break them down.

Another Accident Avoided.

Less than 15 minutes later, to avoid another collision at the same point, Vanrine, driving the other Acme entry, risked death by steering his car right through the heavy infield fence. Both he and his mechanician escaped uninjured, and his car was damaged only slightly, losing a front wheel. The machine was dragged back to its quarters and started again in a few minutes with a new wheel.

Driver Hughes, of the Allen-Kingston, was seriously burned when his clothes caught fire from the blaze which started near his gasoline tank. The blaze was put out by one of the other drivers, who stopped his car and rolled Hughes in the sand, while the mechanician smothered the flames in the car.

Fifteen thousand spectators witnessed the smash-up from the stands which line the homestretch of the great mile circuit, while 800 automobiles were packed in the spaces about the clubhouses and around the starting point.

Shortly after 11 o'clock the Allen-Kingston car caught fire. The flames were quickly smothered, but it was feared that the damage to the machinery was serious.

The Sun, Baltimore, MD 28 Aug 1909