Saturday 12th February 1898
The first car crash resulting in a fatality happened when the steering gear failed on Henry Linfield’s electric car, and he crashed at the bottom of a hill at Purley Corner, Surrey, England. All the main details of the accident were reported in the ‘Evening Argus’ newspaper of Brighton, where Henry had his home. As usual for this period, the article was particularly thorough:
“A sad fatal accident occurred on Saturday to Mr. Lindfield, a gentleman, of 42, Montpelier-street, Brighton. Mr. Lindfield, accompanied by his son, Mr. Bernard Lindfield, a young man of 18 or 19 years of age, was driving a motor car from London to Brighton. They had passed through Croydon, and at about two o’clock were descending a long hill, the machine running of its own impetus.
About half way down the hill the car began to sway, probably owing to the action of the brake, and at that time the son happened to remark, “I believe the bag has fallen out.” Directly afterwards the vehicle became unmanageable, and swerving round on to the path ran through a light fence of barbed wire and struck against a tree with great force. Unfortunately one of Mr. Lindfield’s legs came between the motor car and the tree, the result being that it was completely smashed just below the knee. The son was thrown from the vehicle. He escaped practically unhurt, and finding his father jammed against the tree at once obtained assistance.
Mr. Lindfield was removed to the Croydon Hospital, where his injuries were found to be so serious (the main artery was shattered) that the three surgeons who were in attendance came to the conclusion that the only possibility of saving his life was by amputation of the injured limb. This was done, but after the operation Mr. Lindfield remained unconscious, and yesterday morning at about nine o’clock he died. Mr. Lindfield was able, just after his admittance to the hospital, to converse with his son, and to give him some directions in case he should not survive. The deceased gentleman, who was only 42 years of age, leaves two sons and a daughter to mourn his loss, for whom the greatest sympathy is felt. Mr. Lindfield was well-known and highly esteemed in Brighton, and the news of his untimely death will be received with very great regret by his many friends.The motor car which Mr. Lindfield was driving was a two-seated one, which he had just purchased. He took considerable interest in motor cars, and had on the previous Saturday brought another one, which he had also just purchased for private use, from London to Brighton, but on that occasion, it may be remarked, he was accompanied by an engineer.”
Today traffic accidents kill more than 1 million people a year worldwide!