February 25, 1899 – The first recorded death of an automobile driver

Edwin Sewell, 31, was an enthusiastic Daimler salesman in the late 1890s who was big on showing off the new form of transportation. When Major James Richer came to his showroom, Sewell knew a demonstration drive through west London would convince the first time automobile buyer that Daimler was the right choice. Instead, as they took their test drive on this day in 1899, Sewell ended up killing himself, earning the distinction of being the first automobile driver to die in an accident, as recorded in Britain.

Above: Plaque commemorating the accident.
Top: A c.1899 Daimler, similar to the car driven during the accident. Note, that is not Sewell or Richer

While descending Grove Hill, one wheel of the vehicle collapsed, causing Sewell to lose control. Both driver and passenger were thrown from the auto as it careened down the hill. Sewell died instantly, earning a spot in history as the first recorded death of an automobile driver in Britain as the result of a road accident. Major Richer was taken to a hospital but died four days later due to a fractured skull. Today a plaque marks the location of the incident.

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