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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Driving your car off a cliff: A deadly trend

It happens all the time. A cliff, a car, planned or not, a terrible wreck ensues. Monday, police say former Pro Bowler Junior Seau was asleep behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade when he drove it off a cliff in southern California, only several hours after being arrested for a domestic violence charge. From USA Today:

“Police told the L.A. Times there were no signs of alcohol or drug involvement. They told the North County Times that the tires tracks at the scene were consistent with Seau's statement that he had fallen asleep.” 

Seau survived the crash with only minor injuries; pictures show his Escalade was crushed. Rumors have been circulating that Seau may have been trying to kill himself, but his agent, Mike Kinkler, told ESPN the accident and his arrest were not related:

“One had nothing to do with the other,” Kinkler said. “It's unfortunate the two events happened so close together, but what people are reporting is completely untrue.” (1)

EXAMPLE 2

Reported right here on Brandon's Blog only several weeks ago: 

“The last tweet of celebrity plastic surgeon, Dr. Frank Ryan allegedly came moments before he drove his Jeep off a cliff and died… “Blake’s ex-girlfriend, Charmaine Blake summed up the events that led to the tragedy:

‘He lived up in Malibu on a tiny street and he was texting while driving and he accidentally went over the cliff,’ she said. 

“The California Highway Patrol confirms Ryan was texting before the crash, but investigators have not officially determined the cause of the accident.

‘It is one of the elements that we are investigating,’ CHP Officer Steven Reid says.” (2)

EXAMPLE 3

Who could forget AutoTrader’s ingenious marketing competition, “Cliff My Ride”? The concept was as simple as it had to do with cliffs: Contestants from around the world submitted videos to autotrader.ca explaining why they desperately needed their car to be thrown from a cliff to a fiery demise. 

On May 8th, the good folks at AutoTrader “cliffed” Felix Revelin-Couture’s 1992 Volvo station wagon, meaning they fired it from a launch pad into what appeared to be a gravel quarry of sorts; a classic location for such an event if there ever was one. 

Luckily, Felix wasn’t asleep or texting in the car, nor was he suicidal, though he did actually pull the lever that launched his trusty Volvo brick to its untimely death while standing safely alongside it. His prize: $30,000 towards the purchase of a new car on AutoTrader. Watch the video: http://cliffyourride.autotrader.ca/ 

EXAMPLE 4

Our third example is a serious one. Not so much of its own accord, but for the ramifications that it had beyond the silver screen. We’re speaking of course of Thelma & Louise’s 1991 stare-down with the Grand Canyon. Behind the wheel of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, both women had nothing to lose after Louise was forced to kill a man that threatened to rape Thelma. When the police eventually corner the duo on the Canyon’s ridge, the ladies decide to cliff their ride in a much darker fashion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z88U915uq8

EXAMPLE 5

Disturbingly, the Grand Canyon very well may be the most popular location to drive a car off a cliff, quite possibly due to the famous end scene described above. The following excerpt from Book of Odds explains why, and also sheds light on the history of car-related suicides at the canyon dating back nearly forty years:

“People really do drive their cars, on purpose, into the Grand Canyon. In fact, they do it regularly. The first occurrence was in 1967, when Osan Kang, an out-of-work Korean con man, picked up a Hertz rental car and then scoped out a spot on the South Rim with a natural ramp at the edge. He then drove the car over the rim into 1,000 feet of empty air. 

Kang had eight or nine seconds of free-fall to think about the trend he'd started—not destroying a rental car (although poor Hertz saw another of its cars take the plunge six years later), but using a car to end it all. 

It was a trend that seriously ramped up in 1991, the year of Thelma & Louise. After that, the Grand Canyon had three auto suicides in as many years, including that of Patricia Astolfo in 1993. 

After watching her Thelma & Louise tape 50 times, she took it upon herself to drive her Chevy Suburban into the pit. Just before the rim, its suspension got stuck on a rock outcropping. Still alive, Astolfo got out and simply jumped off the ledge—only to fall 20 feet onto another ledge. Still alive, and badly hurt, she crawled off the second ledge and finally jumped to her death.” (4)

Sources: 

(1) http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/10/police-junior-seau-was-asleep-when-car-drove-off-cliff/1
(2) http://motorspacenw.com/member/blogentry.php?b=999&u=144&page=0
(3) http://cliffyourride.autotrader.ca/
(4) http://www.bookofodds.com/Accidents-Death/Accidental-Deaths/Articles/A0768-The-Grand-Canyon-and-the-Great-Beyond
Picture: TechDigestTV


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Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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