"Evel Knievel""Evel Knievel" Dies
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho's Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69. He had been ill for years due to contracting Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion 15 years ago, and also suffered from diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Knievel's death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. Immortalized in the Washington's Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980. Although he dropped off the pop culture radar in the '80s, Knievel always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. In later years he still made a good living selling his autographs and endorsing products. Thousands came to Butte, Mont., every year as his legend was celebrated during the "Evel Knievel Days" festival. Knievel was the first of two children born to Robert and Ann Knievel. He was born in Butte, Montana. Robert and Ann divorced in 1940, just after the birth of their second child, Nic. Both parents decided to leave Butte and their two children to get a new start. The children were raised by their paternal grandparents, Ignatius and Emma Knievel. At the age of eight, Knievel attended a Joie Chitwood Auto Daredevil Show, which he credits for his later career choice to become a motorcycle daredevil. Knievel dropped out of high school after his sophomore year and got a job with the Anaconda Mining Company as a diamond drill operator in the copper mines. He was promoted to surface duty where his job was driving a large earth mover. Knievel was fired when he made the earth mover pop a motorcycle-type wheelie and drove it into Butte's main power line, leaving the city without electricity for several hours. With a lot of time on his hands, Knievel began to get into more and more trouble around Butte. After one particular police chase in 1956 in which he crashed his motorcycle, Knievel was taken to jail on a charge of reckless driving. When the night jailer came around to check the roll, he noted Robert Knievel in one cell and William Knofel in the other. Knofel was well known as "Awful Knofel," so Knievel began to be referred to as Evel Knievel. The nickname stuck. His death came just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel's trademarked image in a popular West music video. Please sign his Guest Book and leave your memories, condolences and prayers. You can also view photographs and tributes left by others and add your own.