Fatalities - May 1959
Jerry Unser - driver
Bob Cortner - driver
In May 1958, 5-time World Driving Champion Juan Manual Fangio couldn't get his Kurtis-Offy up to speed enough to qualify for the Indy 500, but Jerry Unser qualified and would start his first and last Indy 500.
At the beginning of the race, Dick Rathmann (pole sitter) tangled with Ed Elisian in Turn 3 and both spun into the wall, starting a 15-car pileup.
Pat O'Connor, who starts fifth and is chasing the leaders, dies when his car flips and lands upside down on the track. Unser ran over the top of another car and rolled over the outside wall, dislocating his shoulder.
That's Jerry flying over the wall!
The accident knocked 8 cars out of the race before a lap was completed including 4 cars from the first two rows!
About the middle of May in 1959, Jerry Unser went out to practice and it looked like he was doing ok, but then he lost it coming out of Turn 4. The car spun and hit the wall, sending it end over end down the front straightaway. There were parts flying everywhere and if that wasn't bad enough, the car caught fire. Jerry died of burns two weeks later on Sunday May 17th. After Unser's accident, fire-resistant driving suits, already used by most drivers, became mandatory. Some drivers at the time just wore t-shirts.
Bob Cortner, a resident of Redlands, California, was a ten-year veteran of midget car racing. He passed his rookie test at Indy on Monday, May 18th. He was driving the Cornis - Offenhauser "Cornis Engineering", car #51. The next day during practice, his car got caught by a gust of wind and crashed in Turn 3 and died of head inuries. He was 32-years-old.
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