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Tragedy at the Beach: The Death of Frank Croker

At 27 years old Frank Croker, of  New York,  traveled to Ormond-Daytona for the 1905 beach tournament, but unfortunately Croker would lose his life during his visit h in the first major tragedy of the tournament’s history. Croker was at the beach preparing for the coming tournament driving his 75 horsepower Simplex with his mechanician Victor Rauel also aboard. Croker saw a motorcycle approaching from the opposite direction and swerved, causing his machine to flip multiple times, landing partially submerged in the ocean. Rauel died instantly, while Croker was pulled from the wreckage alive. Croker was unconscious when pulled from the machine, but regained consciousness while being tended to on the beach.


After Croker was taken to Hotel Ormond for treatment, initial reports sounded optimistic for his survival. Croker was conscious and talking, despite multiple broken and crushed bones. However, overnight his condition worsened and he died in early in the morning the day after the accident. Doctors attributed his death to shock and likely internal hemorrhaging, probably from a punctured lung.


The motorcyclist Croker swerved to avoid, Newton Stanley, was also a visitor to the area for the races and was driving a motorcycle he rented from the hotel. Stanley was sent to a hospital in St. Augustine with a serious compound computated leg fracture. Stanley’s accident was indicative of a major concern of the early days of beach racing. With no barriers and the open access nature of the beach, it was difficult to keep the racing course clear. For Croker and Stanley, that challenge proved tragic.


Croker was a lover of speed and an all-around sportsman. Croker played baseball and football while studying at Brown University. He intended to stay in Florida for the boat races in Palm Beach after the automobile tournament. Croker’s death garnered significant attention not just because of the growing automobile interest in the country, but also because Croker was the son of prominent politician Richard Croker, ex-chief of Tammany Hall.

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