Tragedy follows tragedy…the aftermath of Bob Sweikert’s death

Tragedy follows tragedy…the aftermath of Bob Sweikert’s death

TOLEDO, Ohio (Feb. 3, 2019) — According to Mark Twain, in every life “there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.” That certainly holds true for 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner Bob Sweikert. Handsome, charismatic, courageous, smart, successful, and on top of the world, Sweikert’s life ended in tragedy when his yellow No. 1 sprint car, just one year after he won the world’s most famous race, tumbled over the turn one wall at Salem Speedway. The likeable, rising superstar, who had just appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated, did not survive the crash. He was only 30, leaving behind his wife Dolores and four children.

Bob Sweikert shortly before his fatal crash at Salem Speedway

Sweikert himself took the checkers at Indy in the face of tragedy after two-time 500 winner Bill Vukovich cartwheeled over the backstretch wall to his death. As the field favorite going for his third consecutive win at Indy, Vuky, who was leading when he crashed, would have been tough to beat that day.

As a sad, ironic twist, Sweikert’s tragedy helped fuel another. The following paragraphs have been transcribed from the Indianapolis Star, as published on Aug. 12, 1956…

Mother Finds Pair in Yard of Sweikert Home

Bob Sweikert’s death in an auto race last June was reflected in a second tragedy yesterday when two small brothers were drowned in the swimming pool that the 500-Mile-Race winner had built for his own children.

James Tomlinson, 5 years old, and Anthony Tomlinson, 3, lost their lives while wading in the pool behind Sweikert’s house at 5301 Lancelot Drive.

James and Anthony Tomlinson

They entered the pool area through a gap in the high fence which Sweikert was building of tall cedar stakes when he was killed at Salem, Ind.

The fencing had been laid in position on the ground and Sweikert had intended to finish the job the day after the fatal Salem race.

The boys, only sons of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Tomlinson, had left their home at 5241 Will Scarlett Lane, a block from the Sweikert home, for a ride on their tricycles late in the afternoon.

Sam, their police dog, trotted beside them.

At 5 p.m. their mother, Mrs. Marie Tomlinson, 32, began hunting for them, to call them to supper.

She searched for nearly an hour before finding the tricycles in the driveway beside the vacant house. Sam was sitting on the driveway, waiting patiently for the boys.

Mrs. Tomlinson ran behind the Sweikert house. Both boys were at the bottom of the water. Their shoes where on the pool’s rim.

She screamed for help.

William M. Ostapenko, 38, who was working in his yard at 2894 Gallahad Drive, around the corner from the Sweikert house, ran to her aid.

They were joined by Myron Weinberger, 221 East 70th Street, and Edward Karsch, 3470 North Meridian Street, who were on the Broadmoor Country Club golf course behind the Sweikert home.

Ostapenko and Karsch removed the boys from the water. Weinberger and Ostapenko began artificial respiration.

Neighbors who learned of the accident called the sheriff’s office. Washington Township volunteer firemen and an Indianapolis fire department rescue squad rushed to the pool.

Foremen worked for an hour and a half before Deputy Coroner Morris Settles pronounced the boys dead.

As firemen worked, the Rev. Richard Kavanagh, pastor of St. Michael’s Catholic Church, arrived and gave last rites.

The boys’ 33-year-old father arrived at the pool shortly after the boys were taken from the water.

Tomlinson and his wife, who is expecting her third child in two months, went home while firemen worked. Father Kavanagh, their parish priest, took them word that the boys were dead.

The bodies were taken to the Conkle West 16th Street Funeral Home.

The tragedy brought complaints from neighbors about the open pool and its lure for children.

Sheriff Robert A. O’Neal ordered the pool be drained. The firemen drained it before leaving the scene.

Sweikert and his wife, Dolores, were the parents of four children and the winner of the 1955 Indianapolis Motor Speedway classic and had built the 25-by-12 pool with prideful anticipation. It was completed about the time of his death.

Bob and his wife Dolores celebrate his win in the 1955 Indianapolis 500

After Sweikert was buried in California his widow returned to Indianapolis and listed the house for sale. She went back to California three weeks ago to make her home.

Mrs. Sweikert’s last order before leaving Indianapolis, the neighbors said, was that the fence be completed at once.

Find the History Mystery Man on Facebook and YouTube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *