1974 Champion Spark Plug Regatta
Walther Tenth to Die In 23 Years
The death of George (Skipp) Walther in a practice-run crash prior to yesterday’s Champion Regatta in Miami prompted memory of nine other drivers who have died in unlimited-hydroplane accidents in the past 23 years.
Death is a recurring theme in hydro racing.
Tragedy marred the first race ever held in Seattle. Three drivers died in one race — the 1966. And a freak accident took the life of popular Tommy (Tucker) Fults in a test run five days before the 1970 Gold Cup.
Orth Mathiot, driver, and Thomson Whittaker, a riding mechanic, went down with the Quicksilver during the ‘51 Gold Cup here. It was Seattle’s first race and the deadly peril of hydro racing was indelibly stamped on the curious thousands who lined Lake Washington that day.
Death did not strike again for 15 years.
The treacherous waters of the Potomac caught the then-new Miss Bardahl, shattering the boat into a thousand pieces and killing Ron Musson.
Little more than an hour later, the Miss Budweiser and Notre Dame collided. Dead were Don Wilson and Rex Manchester.
The hydro community, still stunned by the tragic President’s Cup, suffered another loss a week later. In the Gold Cup at Detroit, Chuck Thompson was killed when the Miss Smirnoff flipped over after hitting a wake.
The sixties was a macabre decade for hydro racing.
In 1967, Bill Brow of Burien was killed when the Miss Budweiser became airborne and flipped during the Suncoast Cup in Tampa.
The Gold Cup returned to Detroit in 1968 and death arrived with it. Col. Warner Gardner died when the Eagle Electric crashed.
Fults was killed during testing for the San Diego Gold Cup. After a warm-up lap, Fults steered the Lil Buzzard toward the pit area. As he turned to return to the course, the boat hit a small wave and water rushed over the deck. Fults was "lifted" from the cockpit by the wash and died an hour later in a hospital.
Walther was new to unlimited racing. He agreed to "fill in" for Jim McCormick after McCormick was injured during a testing accident in the Red Man last Thursday.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, June 3, 1974)
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