Canadian Formula 1 Champion Gilles Villeneuve aftermath of his fatal crash during practice at Belgian Grand Prix. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Britain’s John Watson scored a dramatic victory in the Belgian Grand Prix as gloom spread over the sporting world with the news of the death of Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, the toughest and perhaps the best driver in Formula One racing, from injuries received in a car crash during practice. The horrific accident happened when Villeneuve’s Ferrari touched wheels with another car as it was overtaking it. Villeneuve’s car cartwheeled and threw the driver out of the vehicle and across the track into safety netting. He sustained severe neck and brain injuries. After receiving the kiss of life and emergency treatment at the Zolder circuit, Villeneuve was taken by helicopter to the St Raphael Clinic at Louvain, where doctors operated upon him, but couldn’t save his life.

In other events:

1877 Romania proclaims its independence from the Turks.

1901 Australia opens its first parliament in Melbourne.

1926 Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett become first men to fly over the North Pole.

1927 Canberra replaces Melbourne as the capital of Australia.

1936 Italy annexes Ethiopia.

1946 Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III abdicates and Umberto II proclaims himself king.

1955 West Germany is admitted into Nato.

1960 The US Food and Drug Administration approves use of birth control pills.

1967 India’s Vice-President Zakir Hussain is named president, becoming the first Muslim to hold that office in the country.

1978 The bullet-riddled body of Italy’s former prime minister Aldo Moro is found in a parked car in central Rome.

1979 US and USSR sign Salt 2 treaty, limiting nuclear weapons.

1980 Liberian freighter rams the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay in Florida, killing 35 motorists and causing a section of the bridge to collapse.

1987 A Polish airliner crashes in a Warsaw suburb killing 183 passengers and crew.

1991 Between 100,000 and 400,000 protesters march in Seoul demanding the resignation of South Korean President Roh Tae-woo.

1994 South Africa’s newly elected parliament chooses Nelson Mandela as first black president.

1995 The city of Kinshasa, Zaire, is placed under quarantine after an outbreak of the Ebola virus.

2000 Ras Al Khaimah issues a law to create a free trade zone.

2001 Cuban President Fidel Castro makes a historic visit to Iran.

2003 A gunman opens fire as he roams the halls of a university business school in Ohio, killing one person.

2004 A bomb kills provincial president Akhmad Kadyrov in the Chechen capital.

2007 India test-fires a medium-range nuclear-capable missile meant for military use.

2009 Jacob Zuma is sworn in as South Africa’s president.

2010 Chelsea wins the English Premier League football title.

2011 The $2.8 billion greenfield plant at the Fujairah F2 power and desalination facility is inaugurated.

2013 A fire at a garments factory in Dhaka kills its managing director and seven others.

2014 A train crashes into a Jeep at an unmanned railroad crossing at Narkatiya in Uttar Pradesh, killing 13 members of a wedding party.

2016 PDP-Laban presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte wins the Philippine presidential elections.