What is the worst traffic accident that has happened in Marin County in terms of fatalities?  In order to find that answer we need to go back to a Saturday evening on October 3rd, 1964 where six people died in a fiery crash on Highway 101 on the San Rafael Viaduct.  On that evening a male driving solo in a sports car was traveling northbound on Highway 101 at a very high rate of speed.  After passing the San Rafael flats, he entered the San Rafael Viaduct with witnesses reporting that he was traveling at 90 to 100 miles per hour. As the Viaduct curved to the right, the driver lost control of his car and he crossed the center divider, which was over Third Street, and he struck a vehicle head on traveling in the southbound lane that contained a family of five.  The Viaduct, which was built in 1941 (prior to that Lincoln Avenue was Highway 101) had two lanes going in each direction with a concrete center divider.  However the divider was only about 4 inches tall and about 18 inches wide. Nothing else separated the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic at that time.  


When the cars hit, they both exploded into flames. SRPD Officer Carl Selby was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene and a short time later he reported over his radio that there were six fatalities.  The Viaduct was shut down for several hours and traffic was diverted to the city streets, which caused gridlock.  It was also decided that the bodies could not be removed from the cars at the scene because of the fire and the severe vehicle damage.  Both cars were towed, with the victims inside, to Duffy Brothers Garage located at Third and C Street.  The victims were then removed from the wreckage inthe tow yard, which was witnessed by a crowd of several hundred people who had heard about the crash and had gathered to watch what was going on.  No other vehicle accident in Marin County history has exceeded the number of lives that were taken in this accident. Years later a better center divider was installed to prevent head on accidents.  A new southbound Viaduct was built much later which is now next to the original Viaduct that still handles northbound traffic.  The next time you drive northbound up the Viaduct and start your sweeping turn to the right take a moment to think about the five innocent lives that were lost that October night because of the actions of one reckless driver.


Attached is a photo taken the next day of the vehicle that contained the five victims as it sat at the storage lot at Duffy Brothers Garage.  A second photo is attached which is a day photo of a similar head on collision that happened on October 8, 1964, just five days after the fatal crash.  In this photo you can see the almost non-existent center divider with a CHP motorcycle parked on top of it.

Posted on January 7, 2015 .