The tragedy of Joe Biden’s first wife Neilia Hunter Biden is a key part of Biden’s biography.
Over the years, the former vice president has spoken openly about the terrible car crash that killed his wife Neilia and their 1-year-old daughter Naomi and injured their two sons, Hunter and Beau. Joe Biden was not in the car when the crash occurred.
What caused Neilia Hunter Biden’s car crash? Over the years, conflicting statements have arisen, including from Biden himself. The evidence shows that the accident was not caused by drunk driving.
Biden would go on to marry his current wife, Jill. With her, he had another daughter. The family dealt with renewed tragedy when Beau Biden died at 46-years-old from brain cancer. His surviving son, Hunter, has been the focal point of controversies during his dad’s presidential run.
Joe Biden brought up both family tragedies in the first Democratic debate when he talked about the need for better healthcare. “I can’t imagine what it would have been like not to have adequate healthcare,” he said, referencing what happened in the tragic crash.
Here’s what you need to know:
Neilia Biden’s Fatal Accident Occurred When She Was Driving to Pick up a Christmas Tree
It was 1972. Biden was a new U.S. Senator. His wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, took the three children — Beau, Hunter, and Naomi — to get a family Christmas tree. That’s when the fatal crash occurred.
According to Politico, a truck that was carrying corncobs struck the Biden vehicle. The other driver was Curtis Dunn.
However, news reports from the time say that Neilia Biden was at fault in the crash.
Police determined that Neilia Biden “drove into the path of Dunn’s tractor-trailer, possibly because her head was turned and she didn’t see the oncoming truck,” according to the Newark Post.
Dunn’s Daughter Is Upset by Comments Joe Biden Has Made About the Crash
Dunn’s family has expressed upset over comments Joe Biden has made about the cause of the crash over the years. Police accounts indicate alcohol use was not associated with the crash.
Biden has made comments over the years about drinking and driving being linked to the crash, according to Politico, but the driver of the truck, Curtis C. Dunn of Pennsylvania, was not accused of drunk driving or any wrongdoing in association with the crash.
“For whatever reason, Neilia Biden, who was holding the baby, ended up in the right of way of Dunn’s truck coming down a long hill,” Politico reported. A friend of Biden’s who looked into the accident at the time told Politico, “She had a stop sign. The truck driver did not.”
Dunn died in 1999. In 2008, Dunn’s daughter Pamela Hamill demanded that Biden apologize, according to the Newark Post. She was upset that Biden had claimed that Dunn was drinking, when police did not find that alcohol was involved in the crash at all.
“I just burst into tears,” Hamill said to the Newark Post. “The story already is tragic enough, why did he have to sensationalize it by saying my father was drunk? My family is outraged.”
Hamill told Politico in 2019 that Biden did apologize in 2009. “He apologized for hurting my family in any way,” she told the outlet. “So we accepted that—and kind of end of story from there.”
Biden Has Described Neilia as His Best Friend
Over the years, Biden has discussed Neilia and how much he loved her. He told the author Kitty Kelley, “Neilia was my very best friend, my greatest ally, my sensuous lover. The longer we lived together the more we enjoyed everything from sex to sports. Most guys don’t really know what I lost because they never knew what I had.”
Of course, Biden would go on to find love against with Jill.
According to The New Yorker, Neilia was “the daughter of diner owners in upstate New York” when she met Biden in 1966. He was in law school when they married.
Biden was raised in Pennsylvania and Delaware; his father was a car salesman, according to History.
When Neilia’s mother asked Joe Biden what he intended for a career, he told her, “President of the United States,” the New Yorker reported.