Canada's First Auto Ambulance Killed a Pedestrian On Its First Test Drive

On Oct. 6, 1909, Charles Cocking took Vancouver’s new “auto ambulance” for its first test drive and promptly killed a pedestrian. Wealthy Texan C. F. Keiss was crossing the street when the ambulance, having dodged between two street cars that were proceeding in opposite directions, struck him in the back. Keiss was so badly injured that he died within minutes. Hundreds of people saw the accident, and the ambulance had its first patient. Unfortunately, the ambulance didn’t go to the hospital, but to a funeral home. As for Cocking, he was said to be an experienced driver, who got into one accident while trying to avoid another. Further test drives found that the ambulance had defects that had to be remedied before it could be put into service. It was soon returned to the manufacturer, without ever actually going into service.