Harry Chapin dies at 38 in car crash

JERICHO, N.Y. -- Folk rock singer-composer Harry Chapin, known for his fund-raising work to fight world hunger, was killed in a fiery auto accident Thursday. He was 38.

Chapin, driving alone in a Volkswagen Rabbit, was struck from the rear by a tractor-trailer truck as he tried to change lanes on the Long Island Expressway, 15 miles east of New York City.


Police said his car burst into flames and the truck driver, who was unhurt, cut the seatbelt that pinned Chapin inside and pulled the singer from the burning wreck.

Though Chapin was not burned, he sustained severe internal injuries and was pronounced dead at the Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, where he was flown by police helicopter. Authorities said the driver would not be charged with any wrongdoing in the accident.

A spokesman for the medical examiner's office said among the injuries Chapin suffered were massive bleeding in the chest cavity, laceration of the aorta, the main artery of the heart, and fractures.

Chapin's agent said the singer was en route to a business meeting in New York City.

'In the fight against world hunger, Harry gave tirelessly of himself and became a great example of what it means to be a true humanitarian,' said Neil Bogart, the president of Boardwalk Records, which Chapin joined in September. 'I shall miss him dearly.'


Chapin, whose father was a drummer with the Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman bands, was born Dec. 7, 1942, and raised in New York City's Greenwich Village area. He lived in Huntington with his wife, Sandy, and five children, ranging in age from 3 to 16.

The hit title track on his last album, 'Sequel,' was meant as a sequel to his greatest hit in 1972, 'Taxi,' the story of a taxicab driver who longed to be a pilot.

Chapin was a co-founder of the World Hunger Year project, an Oscar nominee for his 1969 documentary film 'Legendary Champions,' and a Tony Award nominee for his multimedia Broadway show 'The Night That Made America Famous' in 1975. The show was, however, a box office failure.

Chapin was arrested five years ago for driving 80 mph in a 55-mph zone on another Nassau County expressway although his license had been suspended for falsifying the registration application for a Chevrolet van.

In Thursday's accident, police said, a truck driven by Robert Eggleton of Plainfield, N.J., crashed into the back of Chapin's car.

Police said Eggleton -- assisted by another truck driver -- cut the seatbelt that was keeping Chapin in the driver's seat and pulled the singer from the vehicle, which was by then enveloped in flames.


Chapin was to have performed Thursday night at a free concert on Long Island and tonight and Saturday night in New Hampshire.

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