On Halloween, 2006, 18-year-old Nikki Catsouras crashed her father’s Porsche 911 Carrera, driving at more than 100 miles per hour. While trying to switch lanes, she clipped another car, lost control, then careened over the highway’s median across the traffic lanes and into a concrete toll booth. She became known as “Porsche Girl” when graphic photos of her decapitated body made their way onto the internet.
When police arrived minutes later, they found Catsouras’ body still strapped to the driver’s seat. Her head, however, was crushed. The wreckage and scene were so brutal that the coroner wouldn’t let Catsouras’ parents identify her body. Photographs of Nikki Catsouras’ death had somehow found their way onto the internet, and they spread quickly. MySpace pages seemingly made as a tribute to Catsouras instead posted the photos of her horrifying accident.
Nicole “Nikki” Catsouras was born on March 4, 1988 in Orange County, California. At 18, she was a college freshman living at home with her parents. She was shy and creative, studying photography and working with children in special education. When Nikki was eight years old, doctors discovered a tumor in her brain that they initially didn’t think she would survive. Although the tumor ended up being benign, the intensive radiation treatment Nikki underwent had lasting effects on the young girl. Doctors warned her parents, Christos and Lesli, that side effects might one day surface, possibly impacting Nikki’s impulse control and judgment.
In the summer of 2005, Nikki began using cocaine and wound up in the hospital in a state of psychosis induced by the drug. Her parents attributed this lapse in judgment to her radiation therapy. But this didn’t put a stop to her cocaine use. Nikki Catsouras used cocaine again on Oct. 30, 2006, the night before her deadly accident.
On October 31, 2006, Catsouras and her parents ate lunch together at the family home in Ladera Ranch, California. Afterward, her father left for work while her mother remained at home. Around 10 minutes later, her mother saw Catsouras reversing out of the driveway in her fathers’ Porsche 911 Carrera, which she was not permitted to drive. The mother called her husband and he began driving around trying to find his daughter. While doing so, he called 9-1-1, apparently minutes before the accident, and was put on hold. When he was taken off hold, the dispatcher informed him of the accident.
Catsouras was traveling on the 241 Toll Road in Lake Forest at approximately 1:38 pm, when she clipped a Honda Civic that she was attempting to pass on the right at over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). The Porsche crossed the road’s broad median, which lacks a physical barrier on that segment, and crashed into an unmanned concrete toll booth near the Alton Parkway interchange. Catsouras was killed on impact. Toxicological tests revealed traces of cocaine in Catsouras’ body, but no alcohol. Photographs of the scene were taken by California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers as part of standard fatal traffic collision procedures. These photographs were forwarded to colleagues and leaked onto the Internet.