Etc. -- 1919 Duncombe Car Crash 2.0 (two articles)
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An lightly edited transcription of a page 1 article in the 18 Sep 1919 issue of the Simcoe Reformer

Another Auto Fatality

Another automobile accident, in which Norfolk people were concerned, and one that was attended by harrowing results, is to be reported this week.

Late Sunday afternoon a car was being driven south on the Cockshutt Road by Dr. Chas. Duncombe of St. Thomas. 

It contained, besides the driver, his wife, his brother, Dr. O. H. Duncombe of Waterford, Warden of Norfolk, his wife and their son Raymond, a lad of nine years.

When about five miles from Brantford a heavy car or truck came out of what is known as the McGill trail. It contained a youth as chauffeur, and four foreigners, employees of a Brantford factory.

The cars were both going at a high rate of speed when they collided at right angles and were wrecked.

Dr. Charles Duncombe of St. Thomas died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and Mrs. O. H. Duncombe of Waterford expired a few hours later, both from concession of the brain.

Dr. O. H. Duncombe is suffering from a dislocated shoulder and is cut about the head. Mrs. Charles Duncombe was severely shaken; Raymond escaped entirely without injury.

It is said the Duncombe car had the right of way and that the fault for the tragedy lies with the other car. Further information as to this will, however, no doubt be forthcoming at the inquest that has been ordered.

The victims are all prominent people and well known here. Dr. Charles Duncombe attended Simcoe High School years ago. He has been a leading physician of St. Thomas for a generation.

Mrs. O. H. Duncombe, before her marriage, was Miss Grace Finch, and was one of the most beautiful young ladies that ever attended Simcoe school. Mrs. M. J. McCall of Vittoria is a sister. Mr. H. S. Falls, Mrs. Helena Palmerton, Mrs. Fred. T. Brook, 
Mr. James E. and Harvey Johnson of Simcoe are relatives.


An lightly edited transcription of a page 3 article in the 2 Oct 1919 issue of the Simcoe Reformer


Russell Brown, 15, drove the old Cadillac that collided with motor of 
Dr. O. H. Duncombe of Waterford, killing his wife and Dr. Charles Duncombe of St. Thomas.

Brantford, 26 Sep 1919 -- The coroner's jury empaneled to enquire into death of the late Dr. Charles Duncombe and Mrs. O. H. Duncombe of Waterford, had but little definite evidence on which to form a verdict Wednesday night as far as culpability is concerned.

The jury brought in a verdict that the deaths were the result of an accident from the collision of a car driven by Russell Brown and recommended that the Motor Vehicles Act be more rigidly enforced as regards juveniles and incompetents driving cars. The jury found that Brown, 15, was an incompetent driver.

There were no actual eye-witnesses of the accident and Dr. O. H. Duncombe and Russell Brown, both of whom were in the accident, were the only witnesses to give direct testimony.

It developed that Brown had been influenced to take the car of Charles Culbertson out of his garage for a joy-ride by a number of foreigners, on the pretense that Culbertson had said they could have the car if they found a driver. Brown responded willingly.

Culbertson, who was asleep at the time, denied giving such permission, although young Brown had driven the car with his permission on the Sunday morning of the accident.

W. S. Brewster. K.C., and E. R. Reed appeared for the Duncombe interests, and S. Alfred Jones, K.C., acted for the Crown, while coroner Dr. Hicks presided. 
M. W. McEwen was present on the behalf of Mr. Culbertson. The jury was only out a short time when it arrived at its verdict.

Brown, the 15-year old driver, told an apparently straight story, and his one admission to Mr. Brewster that "he lost his head," probably formed the real basis of the accident. Dr. O. H. Duncombe was visibly upset as he recalled the sad nature of the affair. His little boy, Raymond, was present during the hearing, but was not called upon.

Dr. O. H. Duncombe stated he was driving smoothly until a car came up on his right. He tried to escape from the oncoming car, although he was not going 20 miles an hour. If the other car had not been going faster the accident would have been avoided.

With considerable emotion the witness told of the position of his brother and his late wife just after the accident. He carried his left arm in a sling as a result of the accident.

Details of the accident, as supplied by the witness immediately following the accident were most distressing. Dr. Duncombe did not think it possible that the other car could have applied the brakes, otherwise the accident could have been avoided. It looked as if the other driver had lost his head entirely.

Dr. Duncombe said he was too much shocked to notice if the occupants of the other car offered assistance or were under the influence of liquor.

James Ferris, who lives 30 rods from the scene of the accident, heard the smash, "like a clap of thunder," and thought there was a fire at first from the dust which went up. He did not notice the car as it went by.

Russell Brown, driver of the Cadillac owned by Culbertson, which collided with the Duncombe car, said he was going from 10 and 15 miles an hour. He sounded his horn, which was faint. In his car were some foreigners, whom he had taken for a drive. They told him that Mr. Culbertson said to take them out. Brown said no one had anything to drink; he himself did not touch it. The names of the foreigners were unknown to him. Their car overturned on them.

Brown said he applied his brakes a second before the accident. He had been looking to his right, and did not see the other car.  His brakes were not working well and his horn could hardly be heard for the noise the car made.

His car was an old Cadillac in pretty good shape. Brown said he had driven a Cadillac about 10 times and had learned to drive the car of a local coal dealer. Brown said if he had looked to his left he could have turned and avoided the accident. But he could not make a short turn with the car. He frankly admitted he lost his head. He put on the emergency brake but it did not work. There was no speedometer and he could only [guess] his speed. The foreigners walked home, said witnesses, but he stayed an hour to help the others.

Charles E. Culbertson said that his car had been taken without his knowledge. The brakes on his car worked well on the Paris hill from his own experience, but it was a heavy car and he never applied them quickly. He referred only to the foot brakes, as he had not used the emergency brake.

Asa Wheeler expressed the opinion that the Cadillac was going faster than the Duncombe car. The Cadillac should have been stopped in two lengths.


Copyright 2017 John Cardiff