Celebrity deaths seem to hit us in a special type of way, despite the fact that we may not have known these people personally. As anyone can attest, the whole world was in mourning after the January 2020 death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and the more-recent passing of Lord of the Rings Star Ian Holm has also brought an outpouring of love from the worldwide community. It’s never easy to lose a star that you look up to, but when so many pass in a row, it can be a bit hard to deal with.
With the amount of celebrity deaths that have happened this year, including the incredible songwriters Bill Withers and John Prine, we thought it would be appropriate to take a retrospective on those souls that have been taken from us too early. While the majority of accidental celebrity deaths seem to take place in California, there is one other hotspot for tragedy in the West: Las Vegas.
Early Las Vegas Car Crashes
You may have heard of Evel Knieval and his death-defying stunts, but one stunt in Vegas almost left him with career-ending injuries. Upon seeing Caesar’s Palace for the first time, Knievel knew that he had to jump the fountains that decorated its place on the Strip, and so on New Year’s Eve in 1967, Knievel attempted to jump the fountains on his motorcycle. He says that as he hit the ramp for the 141-foot jump, he felt his motorcycle slow down unexpectedly and was unable to make the jump, landing on a safety ramp and skidding into a nearby parking lot.
Despite his failure, the crash skyrocketed Knievel’s fame and thrust him into the spotlight. He suffered from a crushed pelvis and femur as well as multiple fractures to the rest of his body and a serious concussion and spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Even though this was a very serious crash, Knievel was able to walk away from it and keep performing stunts for the next decade until his retirement.
Modern Vegas Car Wrecks
Unfortunately, modern celebrity car accidents in Las Vegas seem to be much deadlier–in the 2010s alone, several celebrities have died in pedestrian or traffic accidents, and with rising amounts of traffic in the city each year, it does not seem like this trend will die down.
In 2010, a freak accident took the life of Steve Lee, a Swiss musician and singer for the band Gotthard. A semi-truck swerved and struck a parked motorcycle, sending the motorcycle flying towards Steve Lee, who had stopped somewhere near the Utah state line to change into wet-weather gear. Lee passed away due to his injuries and the entire music community mourned his loss.
Jonathan Kaufer, an American director and screenwriter, passed away after a car accident in 2013. Kaufer was most well-known for being a writer on the hit sitcom, Mork and Mindy. While on a road trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, Kaufer lost control of his vehicle and was ejected from the car. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and there is still mystery surrounding what exactly caused the crash that took his life.
Most recently, Jeremy Geathers of the New Orleans Saints and the Orlando Predators passed away in 2017 in Vegas when he was only 30 years old. Geathers was attempting to cross the street when he was struck by a limousine and died due to his injuries. He was an alumni of UNLV and son of former NFL linebacker, James “Jumpy” Geathers.
Accidents Can Happen to Celebrities Too
Any town with a focus on entertainment and nightlife is going to see its fair share of traffic deaths, but Las Vegas has seen more than usual, only topped by Los Angeles for the number of celebrity car wrecks that occur there. It may seem as though celebrities are invincible, but accidents like these reveal their utterly human quality: their mortality.
Many families have trouble managing grief after a loved one has passed away, but it’s even more difficult when doing so in the public spotlight. For instance, Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa Bryant, along with other family members of the deceased from the tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, are in the midst of a legal battle with the company that chartered the helicopter that flew in that January crash. While it’s obvious that winning a wrongful death case against this company won’t bring their deceased family members back, hopefully they can prevent these types of deaths from happening again in the future.
It’s never easy to lose a celebrity that you look up to, especially one whose promising career was cut short due to a tragic accident that could’ve been easily prevented. We mourn the loss of those who have passed, and hope that the rest of 2020 will be a little bit easier to handle.