Dean Chenoweth ó 1979 Speed Record Attempt
A Miracle on the Lake at 215 MPH
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They are calling it a miracle. And no one is arguing.
Dean Chenoweth, attempting to break a world speed record on Lake Washington, survived yesterday after the Miss Budweiser, which he was piloting, flipped while traveling more than 200 miles an hour.
He was in satisfactory condition in the intensive-care unit of Harborview Medical Center with eight broken ribs, a small fracture of the pelvis and a lung bruise.
Chenoweth was moving at an estimated 215 miles an hour, believed to be faster than any man has traveled in a hydroplane, when Miss Budweiser lost its propeller. The boat flew into the air and flipped backward, landing on its nose and left sponson. Chenoweth wasnít thrown from the boat until it started to enter the water.
The 42-year-old veteran driver from Tallahassee, Fla., was conscious when rescued by the Coast Guard.
"Itís a miracle," said Ron Jones, designer and builder of the boat. "I didnít see how he could survive."
Only small crowds were at Sand Point, on the western shore, and Denny Park, on the east side of the lake, to watch the record attempt, but hundreds saw the incident from their homes.
The driverís wife, Kathy, watched in horror from Sand Point.
Chenoweth appeared on his way to bettering the 17-year-old record of 200.419 miles an hour for unlimited hydroplanes for a straightaway mile when the accident occurred.
When the boat lost its propeller and went airborne, it was "like throwing a leaf in the wind," said Jones, who designed the boat for competition around oval courses, not straightaway records.
Chenoweth was wearing a helmet, protective vest and parachute in addition to his life jacket. The vest is credited with cushioning the blows he received as he was thrown from the boat and skidded across the water.
The parachute failed to open fully, but the malfunction is considered a blessing. Gene Whipp, referee for the record attempt, said, "Had it fully deployed, the boat immediately would have caught up with him."
The accident occurred after a day of successful testing that had been hampered only by early afternoon winds. Conditions were described as "perfect" when Chenoweth attempted his record run at about 3:30.
The Seattle-based Miss Budweiser, owned by Bernie Little of Lakeland, Fla., was destroyed. Little said he doesnít know if he will build a new boat.
Mrs. Chenoweth said she wonít ask her husband to quit racing.
"Itís up to him," she said. "Most men search their whole lives for something they are good at. He found it long ago."
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, October 24, 1979)
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