BOY WHO DROVE INTO
AND KILLED TWO
SAID HE LOST HIS NERVE
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
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
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
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.