The sad, deadly side of cars

It\'s enough to make one cry. (Photo by J. Lok / Courtesy of the Seattle Times)
It is with a heavy heart that this picture of Jesse’s fatal accident (by J. Lok /courtesy of The Seattle Times) is posted. I hope it reminds us all how dangerous cars are and helps us all to drive slower and safer.

The automobile’s various roles in life are the topics of endless discussion here. Those of us who see vehicles as more than just a form of basic transport are never at a loss for words when describing how a specific car makes us feel.

Monday morning I was quickly reminded how cars can indeed leave me speechless. I received a call from my brother informing me that a person I had known his whole life was dead. The bright, energetic, funny 23-year-old had been killed in a car accident.

Jesse had been driving his Porsche Boxster when he somehow veered into a Ford Taurus head-on. Initial indications point that he might have been going too fast or he swerved and overcorrected to miss something. He crossed the center line and slammed into the larger Taurus. The picture shows the perfect angle the Taurus took up the side of the Porsche. Jesse was killed instantly. His passenger was rushed to the hospital with multiple injuries – but will recover. The driver of the Taurus was treated at the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Just ten weeks ago, Jesse had gone to work for my brother at his business strategy consultancy. One of my best friends, who also happens to work for my brother, said it best: “all 23-year-olds drive fast, at least those you want to be friends with.” We all did at that age, and many still do. Most of us felt entirely invincible behind the wheel of a car until we started wondering if we had attached the baby seat correctly for our first child.

Speaking with friends at Jesse’s funeral, the common theme was “it could have been any of us.”

We might have escaped the probabilities, but they caught up with Jesse. The chances of a car-crazy guy in a fast car getting into a fatal accident are significantly higher than those of a minivan-driving forty-something mom. This doesn’t make it easier to swallow or accept.

Jesse had car crazy DNA. His father met my father at the Northwest racetracks in the late 1950s. His father has owned a number of wonderful sports cars, and just recently competed in the Chihuahua Express Mexican vintage rally in a borrowed Jaguar E-Type. Just a week ago, Jesse’s oldest brother (around 20 years older), three nephews and I attended an Italian car show together. So, Jesse getting his hands on a Porsche Boxster didn’t seem strange at all, because passion for sports cars ran deep in the genetic code.

And who wouldn’t like to own a Boxster? From the day it debuted, it has been a favorite of those of us who appreciate true automotive works of art. Pretty, refined, capable, exhilarating to pilot, the Boxster was a throwback to the early roadsters of the glory days of road racing. I would have bought one myself, but in a 1997 test drive, I realized I was about four inches too tall to comfortably fit. (I wound up with a C5 Corvette instead.)

Now every single time I see a glorious Boxster, I will be reminded of the tragic loss of a truly great individual. It won’t be the first time a car has been tied to horrible loss. The Mercedes 300SL still makes many think of the catastrophic accident killing drivers and spectators at the ’55 Le Mans. The Porsche 550 Spyder is synonymous with the loss of another young, handsome, promising gentleman: James Dean.

It’s entirely different when it’s someone you know. I remember when Jesse was born. I videotaped his circumcision, for God’s sake! I used to get frustrated when at family events he’d keep crawling under the table. He grew up into an admirable young man – and the over-capacity crowd of friends and relatives at his funeral spoke to his affect on those that knew him. Most did not know he had served as a Big Brother for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Puget Sound. Professionally, my brother (not known for heaping liberal amounts of praise on anyone) had been extremely impressed with Jesse’s analytical abilities ever since his first interview at the company.

Life goes on for the rest of us. The chances that those of us who were car crazy before will swear off sports cars and unsafe classics are slim-to-none. We understand that while possible, Jesse’s accident resulted in a low probability worst-case scenario. Be this as it may it warrants a moment to stop and think.

No matter how good we think we are behind the wheel, all cars – be it a Porsche, Volvo, Model A, Packard, Ferrari, or Honda require a healthy dose of attention and respect. When we neglect attention or respect for even just the most fleeting moment, a car can bite back quickly, altering the course of lives forever.

Editor’s Note: Jesse had served as a big brother for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Puget Sound. Donations of any amount can be made to Jesse’s memorial fund to support Big Brother/ Big Sister programs at


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