While a teenager, future very first lady Laura bush caused the fatality of a classmate in a vehicle accident.

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Published15 September 2004

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Driving is one of the most dangerous tasks we communicate in, and also most the us perform it every day, tiny realizing the peril of it. Annually in the U.S. There are about 6.5 million web traffic accidents, resulting in about 42,000 fatalities.

This is the story of one of those accidents. It resulted in the fatality of who you’ve never heard of, in ~ the hand of who you have.

In might 2000, a two-page police report pertaining come a deadly accident that had actually taken place near Midland, Texas, in 1963 to be made public. It included the info that 17-year-old Laura Welch had actually run a prevent sign, leading to the fatality of the sole occupant of the auto hers had actually struck. According to that report, the future first Lady had actually been driving she Chevrolet sedan to a regional drive-in theatre on a clear night quickly after 8 p.m. On 6 November 1963 as soon as she gone into an intersection without heeding the prevent sign and there collided through the Corvair sedan thrust by 17-year-old Michael Douglas. Likewise in the automobile with Laura Welch was her friend, 17-year-old Judy Dykes.

How rapid Miss Welch might have been driving is open up to question. That part of the police report is illegible, although two biographies that the an initial Lady describe her as having been going 50 mph at the time of the collision. The speed limit ~ above that part of road was 55 mph. Follow to the police report no driver had been drinking, but no tests were performed. No charges to be filed together a result of the accident.

News account from 1963 reported the young guy as having actually been thrown from his car and dying of a damaged neck; he was pronounced dead on come at Midland Memorial Hospital. According to various biographies of Mrs. Bush, the boy’s father had actually been travel in a car automatically behind his son’s and also witnessed the totality thing.

The two teenager girls were required to the exact same hospital and treated for minor injuries that amounted come bumps and bruises.

Michael Douglas, the young man who to be killed, had been a member that Laura Welch’s crowd at high school and her friend. He had been a star athlete, excelling in track and football, and was looked up to by his peers not just for his athlete prowess, however for his personality and intelligence too. By all reports, he to be likeable, outgoing, and funny. He to be nominated as the school’s most renowned boy when a junior, an respect that nearly always visited a senior.

There has always been speculation around the nature the his relationship with Laura Welch. One rumor asserts the two had never dated, however that Laura had actually been romantically interested in him. Another claims he had actually been Laura’s boyfriend once he died, and another that he had once been her boyfriend yet the pair had subsequently damaged up. (The latter theory is advanced in the 2002 story of the Bushes, George and Laura: Portrait of one American Marriage, which says Laura Welch and also Michael Douglas had dated transparent early and mid-1963, however by the autumn of the year Michael to be going out with Regan Gammon, one of miss out on Welch’s closest friends.)

The accident is challenging to know in that it took ar on a clean night on dried pavement in ~ a crossroads defined as “the center of nowhere,” whereby the check out was unobstructed and the avoid sign that faced Laura Welch was plainly visible. (The intersection was a two-way, not a four-way, stop.) yet looking to only weather and also road problems to explain what happened is to miss out on the obvious: there were two teenager girls in the car, girls who were on their method to a party and thus who most likely would have been bubbling over through chatter about who would certainly be there. Laura Welch, the driver, had actually turned 17 just two job earlier. She and her passenger to be still of an age when they might all too easily shut out whatever going on around them, also the technique of an additional car and also the acknowledgment of a avoid sign.

In her 2010 autobiography, Laura shrub attributed the accident to a mix of a danger intersection, the darkness the night, a much less than safe auto (on the victim’s part), and also her very own non-optimal eyesight. She recognized that the victim, Mike Douglas, was a close girlfriend of hers but stated the he was no her boyfriend:

I left Judy’s house and headed to the loop, which back then was a small country road with no streetlights circling about Midland.

We talked together I drove along the pitch-black road. I knew in my mind the somewhere ahead to be a right turn for large Spring Street, whereby the drive-in theatre was, since the loop almost dead-ended at huge Spring. Beyond the rotate the asphalt stopped, and there was nothing much more than a follow of unpaved dirt and dust. Most vehicle drivers turned right, toward town. I knew there was a turn, however where that turn was seemed really far away till suddenly, turn off in the middle of a field, ns glimpsed a protect against sign through the edge beam of mine headlights. At the moment, ns heard Judy’s voice: “There’s a avoid sign.” and also I simply couldn’t stop. I was going along, a little below the speed limit, which was fifty-five mile an hour. The next thing i knew, I remained in the intersection, and immediately in former of me was an additional car. It came rushing out of the darkness, and also I was appropriate upon it, through a second to revolve the wheel. All ns heard was the dreadful sound of steel colliding, the catastrophic eight that occurs when two difficult pieces that steel make contact.

to be a handsome boy with a beautiful smile, and also he was a peak athlete in ~ Lee. That was not my boyfriend, although for a decade some in the push have asserted that he was. However for years, he was my very close friend.

All through high school, Mike and I were good friends; we talked top top the phone for hours, and Mike’s one of nearby friends consisted of nearly every one of my own. And so it was unbelievable to me that it to be his automobile in that virtually always north intersection. It to be a little car, a Corvair Monza, Detroit’s version of a compact, economy vehicle designed to contend with the Volkswagen Beetle. It was sporty and also sleek, and it was likewise the vehicle that Ralph Nader made renowned in his book Unsafe at any type of Speed. He asserted the car was unstable and prone to rollover accidents. Ns was driving my dad’s lot larger and heavier Chevy Impala.

So plenty of lives were wrecked the night at that corner, i m sorry was recognized as a particularly dangerous place. Already that year, 2 other people had lost their lives in crashes wherein the loop met huge Spring Street. ~ Mike’s death, the city did download a much bigger avoid sign and also posted warnings. But it was too late because that us.

A danger intersection, a less than safe car, and also me. I don’t watch well, ns didn’t ever before see well, and also maybe the played a part. Or probably it was merely dark. Judy and also I were talking, and also I to be an inexperienced driver who acquired to a corner prior to I expected it.

There room those who want to believe the future first Lady deliberately and also with malice aforethought murdered her (ex-)boyfriend end some now forgotten teen tiff and also who allude to what they see as the suspicious circumstances of the accident and also the subsequent lack of prosecution as proofs of their supposition. Yet to entertain such a theory is to believe the young mrs would have actually attempted to kill one more by law away v herself. (As the driver that what to be intended to it is in a murder weapon, she would certainly have had actually no factor to believe she would endure a collision severe enough to be fatal come her prey — that occasions turned out that method doesn’t mean that outcome could have been reasonably foreseen.)

Then there room the situations of the crash. It to be 8 p.m. ~ above a November night in Texas ~ above roads much removed from any kind of town, for this reason it was dark. With no avoid sign dealing with him, the doomed young male would have had actually no factor to slow his automobile even if he had seen another car pull close the intersection. He because of this would have been travel at least 50 mph. Laura Welch ran the avoid sign dealing with her, so over there is factor to assume she too was going about 50 mph, the speed she would have actually been law if she’d had actually the ideal of way.

Consider 2 cars traveling in the dark at ideal angles to every other, every going approximately 50 mph. The span of time accessible in i beg your pardon to kind murderous intent would have amounted to mere seconds, provided the rate at i beg your pardon the occasion was unfolding and how near the 2 vehicles had to be to one another before the ill-intentioned would identify the vehicle of she target. That doesn’t add up.

One e-mailed version of the rumor tries to supply response to that inconsistency, saying, “She knew the was her boyfriend’s vehicle driving south, since of the distinct headlight configuration of his 1962 Corvair Sedan.” The vehicles were traveling at right angles to one another, so an inexplicable headlight array on one wouldn’t necessarily have actually been easily visible come the other. (According to automotive experts, the headlight array on the 1962 Corvair Monza was typical of the car of the day; 2 headlights on each side, as this photo shows.)

So 17-year-old Laura Welch did reason the fatality of a friend by running a protect against sign, yet to see an ext in the story than that is to surrender oneself as much as baseless imaginings. Yes, that is always easier to attribute malice to negative outcomes, however that does not average malice is an integral ingredient of tragedy, specifically those involving human being Fate later chooses to exalt.

According to George and also Laura: Portrait of one American Marriage, Laura Welch go not uncover out that the driver the the other vehicle had died at the scene until later on when she and also her girlfriend to be being cure at the hospital. And she did not discover his identity until later still, once her parents arrived and also broke the news to her. The shattered her.

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She to be barely 17 and also she had actually taken the life of a friend. She has due to the fact that carried the weight of this, and also it changed her, at the very least according come those that knew she before and also after. Only rarely has she spoken of this through the press (although she has often been asked), yet even on those occasions she answers have been oblique, nearly as if she cannot bear to think that it, let alone speak of it.