News World On This Day: Fearless American stuntman Evel Knievel dies

On This Day: Fearless American stuntman Evel Knievel dies

American daredevil and entertainer Evel Knievel, circa 1976. Photo: Getty
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“All my life people have been waiting around to watch me die,” said famous American stuntman Evel Knievel.

On this day in 2007, he finally did.

But it wasn’t from jumping over 14 Greyhound buses on a motorcycle.

Nor was it linked to his attempt at shooting himself in a steam-powered rocket over Idaho’s Snake River Canyon.

In the end, the fearless daredevil died of pulmonary disease at age 69.

Robert Knievel, professionally known as Evel Knievel, had looked death in the eye many, many times before that day.

Knievel broke his pelvis and fractured bones in his hand after attempting to jump over 13 AEC Merlin buses at Wembley Stadium, London, in 1975. Photo: Getty

Throughout his career, the death-defying entertainer had attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and several shocking airborne stunts.

And it came at a cost.

Knievel suffered more than 433 bone fractures, earning an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of the “most bones broken in a lifetime”.

Knievel gave interviews from his hospital bed after suffering a fractured right arm and left collarbone when he lost control of his motorbike upon landing a jump over a pool containing 13 Lemon sharks. Photo: Getty

It appeared no amount of pain and injury would stop him.

In 1971, while wearing one of his trademark leather jumpsuits, he rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle over a line of nine cars and a van at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

A year later, he broke a record by jumping over 15 cars in an arena near San Francisco.

After the landing, he violently crashed and skidded through a short tunnel. The crowd jumped out of their seats and rushed toward him, expecting him to be dead.

Instead, he stood up – on a newly broken ankle – and told them, “If someone breaks this indoor record by jumping more than 15 cars, I’ll jump 16 or whatever the number … even if it kills me”.

In 1973, he rode his motorcycle over 50 smashed cars stacked in a pile, setting a record that would stand for 35 years.

But his stunts, though dangerous, didn’t always impress.

In 1974, Knievel tried to jump over Idaho’s Snake River Canyon, after failing to get government approval to ride over the Grand Canyon.

Snake River Canyon has a gap of more than 480 metres from one side to the other.

Using a steam-powered rocket, dubbed Skycycle X-2, Knievel launched himself over the canyon – but his parachute deployed too early and the wind awkwardly blew him back toward the rocks.

Thankfully, he redeemed himself in 1975 by riding a motorcycle over 14 Greyhound buses – a 40-metre gap – at Ohio’s Kings Island amusement park.