James Dean Killed in Car Crash
September 30, 1955
The 24-year-old actor James Dean is killed when his speeding Porsche crashes into another vehicle. He had recently filmed a public service announcement on the dangers of speeding stating, “The life you might save might be mine.”
At the time of the accident, Dean was headed to compete in an auto race in Salinas, California. Riding with him was Porsche factory mechanic Rolf Wütherich. Wütherich had encouraged Dean to drive the car from Los Angeles to Salinas to break it in. At 3:30 p.m., Dean was ticketed for speeding 65 miles an hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone about 84 miles from the crash site. In the time between the ticket and the crash, Dean stopped at a diner for a Coke. At about 5:45 p.m., an oncoming 1950 Ford truck was turning left ahead of Dean’s Porsche. Unable to stop in time, Dean slammed into the side of the truck. Dean was pronounced dead at the scene. His mechanic was thrown from the Porsche, but survived. The driver of the truck sustained only minor injuries.
An inquest ruled the accident was due to Dean’s speeding.
The film Rebel Without a Cause was released a month later. Dean starred in only three films, of which only East of Eden (1955) was released before his death. The movie Giant was released in 1956.