Strange Deaths Involving Automobiles-Part 1
On February 3, 2018, 20-year-old Blake Smith left his dorm at 2 pm. He was enrolled at Crown College in Powell, Tn, and was studying to be a minister. He enjoyed exploring the surrounding area and at 3 pm, he posted a photo on Instagram from Admiral Farragut Park. That would be the last time anyone heard from Blake. The next day he was reported missing.
Blake’s parents used the app Life360 to track their son’s location and friends found his car, a 2014 tan Toyota Camry, at a construction site in Louisville, Tn, seven miles from the park. The Camry had wrecked into a home under construction and was running with the driver’s door pushed forward, and the car was in reverse gear. There was a piece of concrete sitting next to the gas pedal.
A search led to Blake’s body in George Creek, half a mile from his car. His body was discovered in 18 inches of water.
Investigators believe Blake was out sightseeing and got the car stuck in mud at the construction site. Smith placed a block of concrete on the gas pedal and pushed the car, trying to free it when it crashed into the house’s deck. He became caught between the open driver’s side door and the decking column and suffered a head injury that caused him to wander into the creek. An autopsy showed he suffered a minor brain bleed, and the cause of death was drowning and hypothermia.
LINDSAY & HAILEY GARNDER
On the morning of January 13, 2015, a motorist called 911 to report a car in a field at an intersection near Fort Worth, Texas. The vehicle had crashed into a tree, and the driver’s door was open. It was suspected the driver had abandoned the car.
At 11 am, a fence repairman discovered the naked bodies of a woman and baby 200 yards from the wrecked vehicle.
Investigators found clothes scattered in the field between the car and the bodies. The woman was lying on top of the baby, who was in a car seat. The bodies were identified as Lindsay Gardner, 27, and Hailey Gardner, 13 months. According to Lindsay’s husband, Anthony, Lindsay decided the previous night to go stay with her parents because it was closer to her job at a local daycare. However, the accident happened in the opposite direction of her parent’s house.
Police determined the pair died from hypothermia and paradoxical undressing. Paradoxical undressing occurs in severe hypothermia cases when a person becomes confused and disoriented and starts to feel hot, and will begin undressing in an attempt to remain cool. Police believe Lindsay crashed her car on the night of January 12, and because she didn’t have a cellphone, she got out of the vehicle to seek help. At the time, the temps were in the low 30s, causing her and her baby to succumb to hypothermia.
ARNOLD ARCHAMBREAU/RUBY BRUGUIER
Arnold Archambeau, 20, and Ruby Bruguier, 19, went out with Ruby’s cousin, Tracy, 17, on December 11, 1992. All three were a part of the Yankton Sioux tribe in Wagner, South Dakota. At 6 am on December 12, their car was involved in a wreck at an intersection. The vehicle lost control and ended upside down in a ditch. Tracy didn’t see Arnold but did see Ruby escape through the passenger side window. Help arrived, but Ruby and Arnold were gone. Searches followed, but police didn’t find any trace of the couple. They figured the couple didn’t want to face a possible DUI.
Fast forward four months later to March 1993; a motorist found Ruby’s body 75 feet from the accident site in a drainage ditch. Her body was in a poor state and had to be identified by a tattoo. Police located Arnold’s body 15 feet from Ruby. Oddly, he was in a significantly better state of decomposition. Ruby’s glasses and shoes were missing, and police found a cluster of her hair at the scene, an area searched many times earlier. Autopsies determined the couple died of exposure. A time of death couldn’t be determined.
Many believe foul play was involved, but the FBI closed the case in 1999.
On July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler, 36, and her husband, Daniel, left a campground in upstate New York at 9:30 am. Accompanying them were the couple’s two children, Bryan, 5, and Erin, 2. Also with them were Diane’s three nieces, Emma, 8; Alyson, 7: and Kate, 5. Daniel left the campground in his truck, and Diane left with the kids in her brother’s minivan she had borrowed for the weekend trip.
Diane stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast and left around 10:30am. Diane would then stop by a gas station at around 10:45 am before heading back to Long Island. Diane appeared sober to eyewitnesses. Diane stopped at the gas station to inquire about over the counter pain medication. The clerk told Diane they were out of pain medication.
At 11:37 am Diane and Emma called Jackie to report that they were running late. An eyewitness stated they saw Diane at 11:45 am on the side of the road and she appeared to be vomiting. Between 12:15 and 12:45 pm, witnesses stated seeing Diane driving erratically and some saw the minivan pulled over and again Diane appeared to be vomiting outside the car. At 12:56 pm, a frightened Emma called her father, Warren, and told him, “There’s something’s wrong with Aunt Diane,”
Warren spoke to Diane and told her he was on the way and to stay put. For whatever reason, Diane didn’t stay put. She left her phone on the side of the road and drove off. At 1:30 pm, Schuler entered the exit ramp for the Taconic State Parkway, headed the wrong way. Diane drove the wrong way for 1.7 miles at up to 85 mph and crashed head-on with a Chevy Trailblazer with Guy Bastardi, 43, his father, Michael Bastardi, 81, and family friend Daniel Longo, 72, inside. The only survivor of the accident was Diane’s 5-year-old son Bryan who sustained a severe head injury.
Diane’s toxicology report shocked everyone. She had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent – more than twice the legal limit, equivalent to 10 drinks. Diane also had high levels of THC in her system. Law enforcement believe Diane had smoked within an hour of the crash.
Diane was a successful executive who many called a super mom. Friends and family say she didn’t have a drinking problem and rarely drank. Daniel claims she was perfectly fine when they parted ways that fateful morning. So many questions remain thirteen years later as to why Diane was so reckless and took eight people’s lives.
In 1974, Karen Silkwood was a 28-year-old chemical technician in Crescent, Ok, at Kerr-McGee, which produced plutonium pellets. She was a member of the OCAW Union and grew concerned about plant safety.
On November 5, 1974, plutonium was found on Karen’s hands. Over the next few days, she was repeatedly exposed to Plutonium radiation at work. The exposures couldn’t be explained. On November 13, Karen attended a union meeting and then headed home. An hour later, police were called to a wreck on Hwy 74. Officers found Karen’s car crashed into a concrete culvert. She was pronounced dead on the scene. Police speculated Karen fell asleep at the wheel.
An autopsy revealed she had Quaaludes in her system; her friends stated Karen had a high tolerance for the medication. In the weeks leading up to her death, Karen gathered evidence against Kerr-McGee and planned to meet union representatives and a reporter the night of the accident to turn over the evidence. She never made it, and no evidence was found in her car. The union suspected foul play and hired an auto accident specialist to review Karen’s death. The specialist found a fresh dent in Karen’s rear bumper, and skid marks were observed at the scene; this prompted speculation that someone forced Karen off the road. No charges were ever filed in Karen’s death. Karen’s father won a 1.3 million dollar lawsuit against Kerr-McGee, but they admitted no liability. The plant shut down in 1976.
The 1983 film SILKWOOD is based on Karen’s life and activism.
Excellent reporting and writing!
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