Since it’s a men cut in half week on Best Gore, here’s an old video to go with the unfortunate theme:
Tom Pryce (full name Thomas Maldwyn Pryce) is the only Welshman to have won a Formula One race (in 1975). On March 5, 1977 when Tom Pryce was only 27 year old, the Welshman tragically died during the South African Grand Prix after colliding with safety marshal Frederik Jansen Van Vuuren.
The tragedy happened on lap 21 after Italian driver Renzo Zorzi pulled off to the side of the main straight due to fuel metering unit problems which caused brief engine fire. Two fire marshals, whose job is to intervene in case of fire responded by running across the track to do their job. It ended up in a terrible tragedy.
25 year old panel beater named William just about made it across before fast approaching F1 car could mow him down, but 19-year old Frederik Jansen Van Vuuren, who was right behind Bill carrying a 40 lb fire extinguisher collided with the vehicle of Tom Pryce who was exiting the final corner and coming onto the main straight at high speed.
The impact tore Frederik Jansen Van Vuuren in half and sent fire extinguisher he was carrying into the cockpit of Tom Pryce, breaking his skull in half. The speed at which Tom Pryce was running at the moment of crash reached 270 km/h (170 mph).
Tom Pryce was wearing a safety helmet, but there is no helmet that could prevent injury to the head when met with this much force. The impact was so strong, after smashing Tom Pryce’s head, the fire extinguisher bounced off and flew over the adjacent grandstand, jamming shut the door of a car parked behind the rear of the stand.
Body of 19 year old Frederik Jansen Van Vuuren was so mangled up, nobody could tell which fire marshal it was. Director of the race had to summon all race marshals at the end of the race to see which one was missing to help identify the victim.
Austrian racer Niki Lauda who won the Kyalami hosted 1977 South African Grand Prix said that despite this being the greatest victory of his career, he could not enjoy it having learned of the gruesome death of Tom Pryce and the teenage race marshal.
Video of the crash is below. It contains Italian narration.
Best Gore friend Paolo from Italy (username: Neter) was kind enough to provide translation of the narration in the video. Oddly enough, news report I found claimed that the crash took place on lap 21, whereas the Italian commentator in the video reports that it was on lap 23:
00:14 – “Lap 23: Renzo Zorzi’s Shadow stops because it caught fire. Two 18-year-old boys, employed by the race organizers as firemen, cross the track. One of them, Jansen Van Vuuren, gets hit, mowed down and dismembered by the Shadow of Tom Pryce. The fire extinguisher flew from the boy’s hands, hit the pilot to the face, killing him on the spot.”
00:46 – “The car in the white circle is driven by Tom Pryce. There’s a dead man at the wheel. The vehicle travels for 500 meters, slides, bumps violently against the guardrail, cuts off Lafitte’s car and disintegrates.”
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