Deadly crash near Murder Creek, 1955 By Mark Graczyk email@example.com
On the evening of June 18, 1955, spectators filed into Civic Stadium in Buffalo to watch the weekly stock car races.
Auto racing was a popular attraction at the facility — later renamed War Memorial Stadium — in the days before the Buffalo Bills started play there in 1960.
Robert and Barbara Ann Sanders of Court Street, Batavia, were among those in attendance on that warm Saturday evening nearly 60 years ago. They were joined by another Batavia couple, John and Wilma Jean Weiland of Harvester Avenue.
After the races ended, the two couples headed back to Batavia in Mr. Sanders' vehicle.
They never made it.
As Mr. Sanders' vehicle approached the Murder Creek curve on Route 5 in Pembroke, it was hit broadside by a car driven by Walter R. Beechler, 34, of Indian Falls, according to Daily News reports.
It was 1:25 Sunday morning.
Both vehicles sustained major damage.
Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Milton Nachtrieb, who resided near the accident scene, called Pembroke Fire Department along with ambulances from both Genesee Memorial and St. Jerome hospitals. He also called Genesee County coroner, Dr. S.L. McLouth, a Corfu resident.
Robert Sanders, 28, driver of the Batavia car, died within minutes of the crash. He had suffered a fractured skull, fractured right hip and other injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Dr. McLouth.
His wife, Barbara Ann Sanders, 26, was rushed to Genesee Memorial Hospital with head and internal injuries and lacerations. She was listed in critical condition. As far as I can tell from newspaper accounts, she eventually recovered.
John and Wilma Jean Weiland, who were in the back seat, were admitted to GMH with serious but not life threatening injuries.
Walter Beechler, who was alone in the other vehicle, was rushed to GMH with severe internal injuries, lacerations and contusions. He lingered for more than 24 hours before dying of his injuries at 5:45 a.m. Monday.
Because of his grave condition, police were not able to interview him about the crash.
It marked the second such tragedy for the Beechler family in less than a year. Mr Beechler's brother, Claude Beechler, had been killed in an explosion at the Chapin Manufacturing Company plant in Batavia on July 23, 1954. (See previous ''Hidden History'')
Witnesses told police that Walter Beechler's car left the right side of the highway before careening back over to the left side and skidding sideways into the path of the Sanders' vehicle.
The Beechler vehicle was cut nearly in half by the impact.
Both men were veterans of World War II. Mr. Sanders was employed at U.S. Gypsum Co. in Clarence Center. Besides his wife, he left behind two children, his parents, four brothers and two sisters.
Mr. Beechler worked as a truck driver for the Alex C. Smith Trucking Company in Akron. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, his parents, five sisters and two brothers.
It was one of several multiple fatal accidents in Genesee County during 1955. A total of 31 people were killed in Genesee crashes during that year, an all-time record that has only been matched by the 31 traffic fatalities in 1964.
A few months prior, three Batavia men were killed in an Easter Sunday crash on Route 5, just a few miles from the Murder Creek curve.
Then, in late August, five members of a Livingston County family were killed in a horrific two-vehicle crash on Route 20 in Pavilion.
The so-called ''fabulous ’50s” are often remembered as a prosperous, carefree time. In 1955, at least, that image was tinged with tragedy.
(Daily News managing editor Mark Graczyk writes a weekly column called ''Hidden History,'' which looks at interesting, unusual or offbeat aspects of local history. Mark welcomes comments either on the website or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org)