Deaf Stuntwoman Kitty O'Neil Dies at 72

Stuntwoman and speed racer Kitty O’Neil died at the age of 72, according to The New York Times, on Friday. O’Neil, who was deaf, died of pneumonia. O’Neil crushed records in both high-speed driving and stunts for Hollywood movies and shows.

O’Neil lost her hearing when she was a few months old due to a high fever. Her life was the subject of the movie “Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story” in 1979. She was portrayed by actress Stockard Channing, and played Channing’s stunt double.

O’Neil worked as a stuntwoman on multiple popular movies and TV shows, including “The Bionic Woman,” “Wonder Woman” and “The Blues Brothers.” While working as a stuntwoman, leaping off rooftops and helicopters, O’Neil battled cancer and had two operations.

In 1976, O’Neil set the record for the fastest land-speed for women. She traveled at an average of 512 mph in a rocket-powered, three-wheeled vehicle called The Motivator. Her record, 200 miles faster than the previous record, still stands today.

Fans reacted to her death on Twitter and shared condolences, including actress Marlee Matlin.


Photo via Twitter

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Deafness

Little girl blowing bubbles

To the Parents Whose Children Receive a New Hearing Loss Diagnosis

I understand how you may be feeling. I have been there. I am here to tell you… it is going to be OK. Yes, it may be challenging and you may find yourself thinking you aren’t made for this kind of stuff. But, you’ve got this. Right now you might be feeling sad. You may [...]
Mother smiling at camera between her two children, who are smiling to the side. The ocean is behind them.

6 Comments I Do Not Want to Hear as a Parent of Kids With Hearing Loss

Raising kids is hard. Add a diagnosis of hearing loss and you might find yourself thinking parenting is not for the faint of heart. My children were born with needs categorized as “special.” They look like typical kids (with the exception of their devices) but they don’t hear like those with natural hearing. Understanding and [...]
Marlee Matlin wearing a black turtle neck and Nyle DiMarco on the VMAs red carpet.

Director John Leonetti Criticized by Deaf Community for Upcoming Horror Film 'The Silence'

“The Silence,” a horror film that uses a hearing actress in a deaf role, is set to premiere in December, but an interview with director John Leonetti from November is circulating again following criticism from Deaf model Nyle DiMarco and Deaf actress Marlee Matlin. In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Leonetti said Kiernan Shipka, the [...]
Nyle DiMarco in a silver suit on a red carpet; Cochise Zornoza and Noah Centineo both wearing sweatshirts with Zornoza holding a football.

Deaf Community Not Happy With Netflix's Use of a Deaf Actor in 'Sierra Burgess Is a Loser'

Following its premiere Friday, Netflix’s latest romantic comedy “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” faced backlash for scenes viewers have called transphobic, fat shaming, homophobic and more. One scene, which includes deaf actor Cochise Zornoza, is under fire for using deafness for a joke. Zornoza plays Ty, the little brother of Noah Centineo’s character Jamey. Ty, like [...]