From The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 19, 1972:
Senator-Elect’s Wife Dies in Auto Accident
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – The pretty blonde wife of Joseph R. Biden was at his side through his campaign. They rejoiced in victory last month when he became the youngest man to be elected to the U.S. senate in this century.
Biden, an intensely family oriented man, had said earlier that he wanted his wife Neilia to get a doctorate and teach college when their children were older. In the meantime, he said, he wanted her “to mold my children.”
End in Tragedy
Biden’s plans for his family ended in tragedy Monday when a tractor-trailer truck slammed into the family station wagon near Hockessiri.
Mrs. Biden and the couple’s 18-month-old daughter Amy were killed and the Bidens’ two young sons were injured. Joseph, 4, sustained leg injuries; Robert, 3, suffered head injuries.
Also hospitalized was the truck driver, Curtis C. Dunn, 43, of Avondale, Pa.
Police said the station wagon “pulled from a stop sign” and was struck on the left side by the truck, “continuing approximately 150 feet, spinning around, going backwards down an embankment, and striking three trees.”
Biden, 30, Democrat, was in Washington at the time, working on staff appointments. He flew back to Wilmington and arrived at the hospital with his sister and campaign managers.
A half-hour later he departed with his son Robert in an ambulance.
In an apparent effort to reassure the child, Biden said: “I’m going to jump right in there with you, son.”
The boy was transferred to Delaware Division hospital nearby.
Biden met his wife, a native of Skaneateles, N.Y., during his junior year at the University of Delaware. Two years later, in 1965, after he finished his first year at Syracuse law school, the two were married. Mrs. Biden had been on the dean’s list and was homecoming queen at Syracuse.
Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hunter of Auburn, N.Y. Biden, a Wilmington lawyer and New Castle county councilman, had been soaring on the crest of victory after defeating veteran G.O.P. Sen. J. Caleb Boggs in the Nov. 7 general election.
At that time Biden was still 13 days shy of his 30th birthday, the minimum age required to be a U.S. senator.
Boggs, when notified of the accident, said, “It’s tragic and
terrible beyond words.”
According to a December 2007 New York Times story, this is how Sen. Biden described the accident:
“Let me tell you a little story,” Mr. Biden told the crowd at the University of Iowa. “I got elected when I was 29, and I got elected November the 7th. And on Dec. 18 of that year, my wife and three kids were Christmas shopping for a Christmas tree. A tractor-trailer, a guy who allegedly — and I never pursued it — drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch, broadsided my family and killed my wife instantly, and killed my daughter instantly, and hospitalized my two sons, with what were thought to be at the time permanent, fundamental injuries.”
A drunk driver or not? Check out this article by News Journal of Delaware. [Link came from Comments for this post]
Some Gazette coverage on Sen. Biden’s 2007 Iowa visits here.