San Luis Obispo, California, United States

Donald Turnupseed: In the Shadow of James Dean's Death

On September 30, 1955, 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed was driving from Cal Poly, where he was a student, to his hometown of Tulare. At the intersection of Route 46 and 41 he collided with actor James Dean's convertible Porsche. Dean died within the hour and his mechanic, who was the passenger, survived with serious injuries.

An official inquest was held at the San Luis Obispo Court House on October 11, 1955. Turnupseed, CHP officers and witnesses to the accident all provided testimony. Turnupseed said that he did not see the low-profile Porsche until after he was making the left turn that caused the accident. Dean was driving at a speed of 85 mph, well over the speed limit. The jury's verdict: "accidental death with no criminal intent." Donald Turnupseed was found not guilty, although some thought he was at fault. In a way, it didn't matter, because this death would haunt him for the rest of his life. He fielded requests for interviews his entire life, but never granted a single one.

This is the only photo of an older Donald Turnupseed floating around on the internet.

Donald Turnupseed: In the Shadow of James Dean's Death