1977 Seafair Trophy
10 Other Racers Have Died In Unlimiteds
The death of Gerald (Jerry) Bangs in yesterday’s Seafair Trophy Race on Lake Washington prompted memory of 10 other unlimited-hydroplane racers who have been killed in the past 27 years.
Tragedy marred the first race ever held in Seattle when a driver and his mechanic were killed. Three drivers died in accidents during one race in 1966, and two others were killed during practice runs in the past seven years.
Orth Mathiot, a driver, and Thom Whittaker, a riding mechanic, went down with the Quicksilver during the 1951 Gold Cup race here. That 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.
For 15 years, the sport escaped death. But the late 1960s were a macabre period for hydro racing:
In 1966, in Washington, D.C., the treacherous waters of the Potomac River caught the then-new Miss Bardahl, shattering it to pieces and killing Ron Musson, during the President’s Cup race.
Little more than an hour later, the Miss Budweiser and Notre Dame collided. Dead were Don Wilson and Rex Manchester.
Still stunned by the tragedy on the Potomac, the hydro community suffered another loss a week later. In the Gold Cup race at Detroit, Chuck Thompson was killed when the Smirnoff flipped over after hitting a wake.
In 1967, Bill Brow was killed when the Miss Budweiser flipped during the Suncoast Cup regatta in Tampa, Fla.
The 1968 Gold Cup race in Detroit also was marred by tragedy. Col. Warner Gardner died when Miss Eagle Electric crashed.
Tommy Fults was killed during testing before race day for the 1970 Gold Cup regatta in San Diego. He was driving Pay ‘N Pak’s Li’l Buzzard.
George (Skipp) Walther died in Miami in 1974 during a race-day test run in the Red Man, prior to the start of the season-opening Champion Regatta.
And now Bangs.
He was driving a pickle-forked cabover, a type of boat considered more safe than hydros involved in most of the previous fatalities, when the accident occurred.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 8, 1977)
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