Friends within a Kelowna drag racing club are in shock following the high speed crash that claimed the life of Gary Hough, one of their most experienced racers.
“It was a horrible accident and everybody is distraught,” said Bill Boult, a representative of the Okanagan Auto Sports Club that held the ill-fated race Saturday, at Thunder Mountain Raceway.
“He’s held every position within the club over the years and he’ll be missed by a lot of people. He was generally, just Mr. Racer.”
The 66-year-old driver was behind the wheel of a new front engine dragster, practising for a race that was to be held in Mission later this month, “just getting time in the car” when the unusual and fatal chain of events played out.
The car sped by track timers at a rate of 218 kilometres per hour, but when it came time to slow down it continued to accelerate, until it left the track.
A standardized chute also didn’t deploy as the car left the track and struck trees and rocks, shredding the vehicle’s exterior. The passenger cage remained intact, despite the violence of the crash, and was found more than 300 feet away from the track with the driver inside.
“For what reason it didn’t slow down, we don’t know,” said Boult, noting the car had recently been certified for meeting industry standards. “We may never know.”
Firefighters and paramedics pulled the driver out of the wreckage and he was airlifted to hospital in Kelowna but died a short time later. “In a lot of ways there were a lot of things done to make it good for (him), but the speed he left the track…I don’t know what they could have done,” he said.
Kelowna RCMP and the coroner continue to investigate the accident.