1966 APBA Gold Cup
Detroit River, Detroit MI, July 3-4, 1966
Hydroplane Driver Dies in Gold Cup
Detroit (AP)—Death rode with the top United States speed-boat drivers again Sunday as veteran Chuck Thompson, 54, was killed when his hydroplane flew apart on the Detroit River during the Gold Cup race.
Fellow drivers, saddened by the second tragedy to hit their ranks in two weeks, voted along with boat owners to resume the race today.
Three drivers were killed June 19 in the President's Cup race at Washington, D.C.
Many of the 300,000 spectators who lined the river along the three-mile course screamed as Thompson's boat disintegrated seconds after he crossed the starting line at more than 100 miles an hour in what for him was a third heat.
A helicopter plucked him from the water. Physicians applied mouth to mouth resuscitation but it was in vain.
Referee Bill Newton said Thompson's 7,800 pound boat, Smirnoff, "seemed to become airborne momentarily and then smacked down hard on the water."
Officials at first cancelled the meet. Two hours later, however, the race committee, boat owners and drivers decided to resume the race today at the point where it was Sunday.
Had Never Won Cup
Thompson, one of speedboat racing's most popular figures, was cheated out of an unachieved ambition—to win the Gold Cup. In a career which extended back to 1933, he had won every other major hydroplane racing crown. It was his 12th try for the title,
Thompson and Mira Slovak of Los Angeles, in Tahoe Miss, each had won his first two heats with ease.
They did not meet each other until the third preliminary heat and the crowd was set for a duel. The two were expected to fight it out for the point lead before going into the fourth and championship heat.
The start of the third heat ran into trouble as driver Bill Sterett of Owensboro, Ky., was tossed from his Chrysler Crew moments after it began. Sterett was pulled from the water.
(Reprinted from the Associated Press, July 4, 1966)
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