Patton's chief of staff, Major General Hobart Gay, invited him on a December 9, 1945 pheasant hunting trip near Speyer to lift his spirits. Observing derelict cars along the side of the road, Patton said, "How awful war is. Think of the waste." Moments later the 1938 Cadillac limousine they were riding in collided with an American army truck at low speed.
Gay and others were only slightly injured, but Patton hit his head on the glass partition that separated the front and back seats. He began bleeding from a gash to the head and complained that he was paralyzed and having trouble breathing. Taken to a hospital in Heidelberg, Patton was discovered to have a compression fracture and dislocation of the cervical third and fourth vertebrae, resulting in a broken neck and cervical spinal cord injury that rendered him paralyzed from the neck down.
Patton spent most of the next 12 days in spinal traction to decrease the pressure on his spine. All non-medical visitors except Patton's wife Beatrice, who had flown from the U.S., were forbidden. Patton, who had been told he had no chance to ever again ride a horse or resume normal life, at one point commented, "This is a hell of a way to die." He died in his sleep of pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure at about 6:00 pm on December 21, 1945, at the age of 60. The 1986 film The Last Days of Patton tells the story of his last few months.