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Thread: Fire Incident at 2012 NASA Nationals

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    LongWinded National Champ Bueller's Avatar
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    Default Fire Incident at 2012 NASA Nationals

    Was reading about this today. Pretty intense stuff. Here are 2 videos ive found and a recap of the incident from the GTS forum. The first video covers other topics also so go to 9:30 for the fire incident.

    The fire

    Despite our lamentations to the drivers regarding contact, arguably the worst incident of the weekend happened during Thursday morning's qualifying session. Southeast Regional Director Jim Pantas was driving his daughter's Pepto-Bismol pink BMW SE30 as a GTS2 car. Hurrying down Thunder Valley, a short straight along the back of the Mid-Ohio facility, he watched the traffic ahead of him scatter just in time to see the nearly-stopped GTS1 Porsche 944 of Greg Panik, busy fighting a gearbox problem, dead ahead.

    Although Panik had moved well off the racing line, a gaggle of GTS3 and GTS4 cars around Pantas' slower BMW left him in the same place. Pantas had no time to divert and just managed to lock up the brakes before slamming into the back of Panik's limping car. Unbeknownst to either driver, the impact burst Panik's gas tank and fuel was gushing out beneath Pantas' car and across the track.

    Several cars made it safely past before Mike Ward (GTS2 Porsche 968), assuming he was seeing coolant, drove through the river of fuel. The resulting splash sent gasoline misting up to his hot brake rotors and ignited the whole thing.

    Ward continued on with flames streaking down both sides of his car. Meanwhile, the main part of the puddle--the part under Pantas' BMW--burst into an inferno. You know how it is in the movies when they light off gasoline bombs and there's an obscene dark orange flame pumping out an incredibly thick column of sooty black smoke?

    It was exactly like that.

    Exactly.

    I've seen video of this from a following racer and the whole thing is absolutely sobering. Inside of what was probably no more than two or three seconds, Pantas' car became fully engulfed, surrounded on both sides by flames reaching ten or more feet into the air.

    Of course, he unbuckled and exited the car, but as he told me afterward, "I started to take a breath but it was too hot so I held my breath but then realized I couldn't see anything and didn't know which way I should go. I knew the other car was over that way so I just ran the other way and hoped it was right."

    In all, it took him nearly ten seconds to get out of the flames which, when you see the video, seems like a very, very long time. A scary long time. Miraculously, and thanks to the quality of his safety gear, Jim's only burns were on his chin and eyebrows as he'd skipped wearing a balaclava. He has vowed never to do that again.

    The impact pushed Pantas' BMW's left front tire back into the passenger compartment, spraining his ankle. Once out of the flames, he limped over to the guardrail only to realize he could hear the other driver screaming, "I can't get out! I can't get out!"

    Panik, it turned out, had a harness on which the central connector was attached to the submarine strap rather than the more conventional lap belt configuration. By accident, he had turned it the wrong way when buckling in and now the release handle was up against his body instead of facing away as he expected. In the excitement and fear of the moment, he didn't realize the issue and couldn't find the release as the flames licked ever closer.

    Fortunately, and thanks to the incline of the track, the bulk of the fuel and flames remained in the rear of the stranded 944 and hadn't quite gotten to the driver yet. Hearing the screams, Pantas hurried across the track again as fast as he could on his bum leg, helping to extract the panicked Panik safely.

    Thanks to Jim Pantas' quick thinking and bravery, both drivers ended up okay (small burns and the hurt ankle notwithstanding) but the cars are both write-offs.

    Fortunately, that's not how the entire weekend went.


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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Holy ****.

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    Senior Member Neocataboi's Avatar
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    O_O

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    Senior Member Matt Andrews's Avatar
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    i think i'm going to take up knitting.
    hakeem likes this.
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    The drivers got burned, fortunately minor burns, becaue one driver did not wear a Nomex balaclava, and the other driver put on his harness release backwards, and couldn't figure it out in the flames. These are little mistakes, but they significantly affected safety in a firey crash. Be careful out there.
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    Senior Member azngotmilk's Avatar
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    holyshiz!

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    Senior Member Gian's Avatar
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    Saw the smoke when I was working on my car. That's crazy. This really shows why you need to be able to get out quickly and with out thinking about it.
    That's not a Typo, I just can't spell no so well.

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    Senior Member DutchOven's Avatar
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    This also shows that its smart not to cheap out on safety equipment.
    -Kevin M.

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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard EVO View Post
    and the other driver put on his harness release backwards, and couldn't figure it out in the flames.
    I don't understand this part. On my Schroth harness there is no way to attach the points to the buckle the wrong way, which makes total sense of course.

    What kind of harness allows you to do it in reverse?

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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hakeem View Post
    What kind of harness allows you to do it in reverse?
    I'm guessing it was a 5 point and it says the buckle mechanism was on the sub strap. Apparently with that brand the lap belts can go in either side - yikes. I'm guessing he'll get a different belt design for his new car.
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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_5 View Post
    I'm guessing it was a 5 point and it says the buckle mechanism was on the sub strap. Apparently with that brand the lap belts can go in either side - yikes. I'm guessing he'll get a different belt design for his new car.
    You get what you pay for I suppose. Harnesses etc are not something I'm prepared to skimp on, especially when the price difference from best to worst is like $300.

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    http://www.trackhq.com/Banners/yellowsitesponsor.gif emilio700's Avatar
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    Some cam buckle harnesses have a latch that swings over kind of like a latch-link. It overhangs the edge of the latch housing when closed. To get it open you reach under that overhanging edge. If the housing gets oriented upside down, the little overhang is not where you expect it and the lever is hard to pry away from the housing and hard to find with gloves on. Sounds to me like that's what happened. I drove a friends car recently with a buckle like that and had to fumble a bit to get my gloved fingers under the lever. No thanks! My Schroth cam lever rotates left or right to release so no brainpower required to open it.
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    LongWinded National Champ Bueller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard EVO View Post
    The drivers got burned, fortunately minor burns, becaue one driver did not wear a Nomex balaclava, and the other driver put on his harness release backwards, and couldn't figure it out in the flames. These are little mistakes, but they significantly affected safety in a firey crash. Be careful out there.
    Since when do you read anything other than a poll?
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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bueller View Post
    Since when do you read anything other than a poll?
    The Sheriff is big on safety gear.
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