• January 20, 2023

Lillian Curtis, Lloyd Curtis Killed, 1 Injured in Denny’s Sign Accident in Elizabethtown, KY

UPDATE (January 24, 2023): Reports now say that a second person succumbed to the injuries they sustained due to the falling Denny's sign. That person was identified as Lloyd Curtis. The third victim's condition is unclear at this time.

While the exact cause of the incident remains under investigation, a reader left an interesting comment below which is worth a read. I would be curious to hear more opinions about what may have happened here, because what little is known right now still doesn't make me think anything besides an egregious mistake led to this awful event. If that is what happened, of course, the next question would have to be, "Whose mistake was this?"

Elizabethtown, KY -- January 19, 2023, Lillian Curtis was killed and two were hurt after an accident where a Denny's sign fell on their car.

The unusual event was said to have happened before 3:00 p.m. at the Denny's located near the intersection of North Mulberry Street and I-65/Kentucky Turnpike.

I was shocked to see there was video footage of the sign falling, which apparently came loose during high winds. It fell onto a car traveling below it in the Denny's parking lot, crushing it and injuring the three people inside.

Lillian Curtis, Lloyd Curtis Killed, 1 Injured in Denny's Sign Accident in Elizabethtown, KY

One of the occupants, identified as 72-year-old Lillian Curtis, was rushed to a hospital. Curtis later died from her injuries. Conditions of the other two people taken to the hospital were not specified.

I'm not really surprised there isn't much information beyond this in regards to the accident. To call it unusual would be an understatement, and it's not like police are going to have a "Falling Business Signs" division of reconstructionists. It will no doubt take more dedicated independent investigators to examine the sign and ultimately where the failure occurred.

But I've heard some in the news refer to this incident in a way that a never quite sits well with me: a freak accident. To be clear, I agree this was a shocking event, and there was likely no possible way the victims could have avoided this. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But when people call something a "freak accident," it's often just a way for them to shrug their shoulders, write off the whole thing as unavoidable, and move on while the victims and families are left to pick up the pieces. Those who have looked into complex accidents as long as I have, though, will no doubt have seen enough "freak accidents" which were in fact entirely avoidable. It's far more common that a serious mistake leads to an incident like this one. Could the same prove true here?

Obviously, high winds likely played a role here, but it's possible it only played a role like rain would in a traffic accident where someone's tires were too worn to safely operate on those wet roads. As investigations continue, here's something to consider: there are countless other businesses up and down this highway, many with tall signs like the one that fell here. Why didn't they fall in those same high winds? Why don't we see falling signs every time there are high winds? What was different about this Denny's sign compared to all the signs around it—compared to the hundreds of other Denny's signs all around the country that haven't crushed anyone to death? My experience tells me there's a strong possibility the answer won't simply be that the wind was the only factor in this woman's death.


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