The Worst Car Crashes In History

Automobile accidents are one of the biggest killers in America, and worldwide there are millions of car crash casualties every year. While more advanced safety features increase the likelihood of survival during impact, no one is completely immune to the dangers of the road. Deaths can be caused via injuries accrued in the accident, but crashes that result in explosions often lead to victims burning to death. The damage a single person can do behind the wheel of a car can be catastrophic, and the worst car crashes in history show us just how bad we can screw up. 

Around the world, car crashes occur each year. Oftentimes, accidents are minor, but often people are killed in particularly nasty crashes. While fatal car crashes are common, the deadliest car accidents in history are much more than your average fender bender. They involve deadly explosions, treacherous driving conditions, and a run of bad luck that would put any gambler out of business. This list will expose the horrifying realities of history's deadliest auto accidents, and hopefully shine a light on the dangers of gas siphoning. 

Photo: Jeff Attaway / foter

  • 1982 Salang Tunnel Fire

    Date: November 3, 1982

    Location: Salang Pass, Hindu Kush, Afghanistan

    Deaths: 2,700 (estimated) 

    An explosion in the Salang Tunnel, a vital connection between northern and southern Afghanistan, left 700 Soviet soldiers and some 2,000 Afghanis dead. The explosion resulted in a fire that consumed all vehicles in the tunnels. Fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide worked in tandem to kill the tunnel's occupants. Some cars, unaware of the explosion, continued to enter the tunnel while the chaos was still occurring. Sources are still unclear whether or not this was an accident or an attack by Afghanistan's Mujahideen. Fearing an attack, Soviet soldiers blocked off the entrances to the tunnel with tanks. The blockade was responsible for further deaths. 

  • 2010 Sange Road Tanker Explosion

    Date: July 2, 2010

    Location: Sange, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Deaths: 230 (estimate) 

    During a World Cup match, a tragedy occurred in the village of Sange in the Dominican Republic of Congo. A fuel truck overturned and exploded on a road near the village and sent a fireball tearing through the town. Hundreds of people who had gathered to watch the World Cup died in the disaster. The United Nations sent helicopters to air lift survivors out of the village. Many bodies were never identified as they were charred beyond recognition, so the precise number of victims was never determined. It is believed over 230 people died, however. 

    Details are sparse as to the exact causes of the explosion, but reports indicate that the truck had tipped over after driving over crumbling terrain due to poor road conditions. The fuel tank had sprung a leak and eventually ignited. 

  • 2017 Bahawalpur Explosion
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    2017 Bahawalpur Explosion

    Date: June 25, 2017

    Location: Bahawalpur, Pakistan

    Deaths: 219

    An overturned oil tanker became the site of mass destruction after an explosion killed hundreds of people. The accident occurred in Pakistan's Bahawalpur District when the truck's driver attempted to make a sharp turn at high speeds. The driver was killed in the initial accident, but many of those killed were local residents drawn to the scene by the prospect of siphoning gas from the overturned vehicle. Reports indicate that someone on the scene had lit a cigarette just prior to the fire's ignition. The tanker was carrying roughly 40,000 liters of fuel at the time of the explosion. 

  • 1978 Los Alfaques Disaster
    Photo: order_242 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    1978 Los Alfaques Disaster

    Date: July 11, 1978

    Location: Tarragona, Spain

    Deaths: 217

    A tanker truck caused hundreds of deaths after it crashed into a ditch near a campsite in the Catalan city of Tarragona. It is unclear as to why the truck crashed, but the ignition of the truck's propane supply created a cloud of gas, which led to a massive explosion. More than 200 did not survive, either dying on site or succumbing to their wounds. Rescue operations and emergency services were not equipped to deal with the level of destruction, and it took hours for all the survivors to be treated for their wounds. 

  • 1991 Thung Maphrao Truck Explosion
    Photo: U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    1991 Thung Maphrao Truck Explosion

    Date: February 15, 1991

    Location: Thung Maphrao, Phang Nga, Thailand

    Deaths: 122

    After a dynamite truck tipped to its side in rural Thailand, there did not appear to be any danger near the crash site so many onlookers gathered out of curiosity. Unfortunately, the truck exploded a few hours later and killed over 100 people. Most of those who lost their lives were people who had gathered to view the damage. The truck was on route to deliver the dynamite package to a nearby quarry. Not only were lives lost in the explosion, over 50 houses were were destroyed in the blast. 

  • 2012 Okobie Road Tanker Explosion

    Date: July 12, 2012

    Location: Okobie, Nigeria

    Deaths: 121

    In July 2012, a Nigerian fuel tanker flipped over and ruptured its tank near a petroleum station located near the small village of Okobie. As people gathered to steal the leaking fuel, an explosion erupted, which killed and injured hundreds of people. The truck driver had reportedly crashed the car after losing control of the vehicle. He also warned people to evacuate repeatedly for over 40 minutes while people gathered around the accident site.