Some reports changed, greatly exaggerated details of the crash
By Mark Wineka
Some aspects of Stevie Wonder’s accident in Salisbury on Aug. 6, 1973, have been confused, changed and embellished over the past 35 years.
One part of the story repeated in articles, books and Internet summaries of Wonder’s life refers to the “logging truck” that Wonder’s car hit that afternoon on I-85.
It’s often assumed a logging truck, which was really Charlie Shepherd’s 1948 Dodge flatbed farm truck, would be carrying logs.
Many stories ó even the Post’s original article about the accident ó reported it was a log that came flying off the truck, crashed through the windshield and hit Wonder in the head, sending him into a coma.
Shepherd told the Post recently that he already had delivered his load of logs in China Grove and that the back of his truck was empty as he headed for home on Interstate 85.
Newspaper photographs taken on the scene don’t show any logs, just broken boards, no doubt a result from the truck’s rolling over after the car hit it from behind.
That seems to mesh with what Wonder told attorneys as part of a civil suit filed in connection with the accident in 1976. He said the bed of the truck crashed through the windshield and hit him in the forehead with “great force.”
But Wikipedia says “a log from a truck went through a passenger window and struck him in the head. This left him in a coma for four days and resulted in a permanent loss of his sense of smell.”
Another Internet site says, “In 1973, Wonder sustained severe head injuries in an auto accident when a log fell on the car he was riding in as it passed a lumber truck.
The 2002 biography “Blind Faith: the Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder’s Mother,” held nothing back when describing the wreck.
First it mentioned how “logging trucks were common in the densely forested region and were a nuisance for travelers in a hurry.” It added:
“A driver could spend his life trying to get around the damn things, which pondered down the highway like drunken dinosaurs.”And when it came to reliving the moment of impact, the book said:
“There was a great, grinding screech as metal hit metal and, then, impossibly, as if in some lavishly produced Hollywood action movie, one of the great logs disencumbered itself of the truck and came crashing through the windshield, spearing Stevie square in the forehead.”
The length of time Wonder actually was unconscious or comatose is another moving target.
According to many articles and books, including the mother’s biography, Wonder remained comatose for many days.
The most popular time period for the coma is four days.
But newspaper accounts have Wonder regaining partial consciousness the day after the wreck, talking enough to answer simple questions two days after the accident and drinking liquids by mouth on the third day.