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Delta throwback: tragedy at the track

One dead, many injured in car crash at the Ladner harness track

Let’s go back to the summer of 1963 when the Paterson Park harness racing track in Ladner was still going strong, but experienced a horrific incident.

The June 5th edition of the Optimist reported on an accident which took the life of one man and injured 17 others.

After the first race had ended, a car driven by Mrs. Stanley McKeen of Vancouver went out of control, crashed through the east parking lot barrier, hit a rail fence at the side of the track, ploughed through spectators standing, swiped the grandstand, hit a steel post and rebounded through another fence and went another 150 yards, dragging bodies along the way.

Spectators and track officials described the melee as “unbelievable” and how people ran in panic.

Management had a rule that vehicles were not permitted near the track but McKeen had asked permission to drive closer so that she could see the racing from her window.

It’s presumed she stepped on the gas instead of the brakes. People didn’t have a chance to avoid her.

Alex C. McLeod of Richmond died in Vancouver General Hospital of multiple injuries.

Among the many injured were Jimmy and Bruce Baker, three and seven-year-old sons of a horse owner at the track.

Several people suffered broken bones.

Dr. T. Vaughan Jones was at Paterson Park when the accident happened and he and two men trained in St. John Ambulance helped attend to the injured.

Reporter Don Luke with the Optimist was also on hand and took several dramatic photos of the aftermath.

“Calls were made from the PA system for people with station wagons to transport the injured to hospitals and many drivers came. Ambulances were supplied from Vancouver and New Westminster,” he wrote.

An inquest was held and additional safety measures implemented.

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