Disasters · South Africa

Formula One driver killed by fire extinguisher carried by man he ran over

March 5, 1977
Midrand, South Africa
Formula One driver Tom Pryce and marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren are killed in a chain-reaction accident

Jansen van Vuuren and another marshal had rushed to a car which had malfunctioned and caught fire. As the two marshals ran across the track, Pryce and another driver came over a rise in the track. The other driver was able to see the marshals on the track and narrowly avoid hitting either, but Pryce did not see the men in time and struck Jansen van Vuuren at approximately 270 km/h (170 mph).

Jansen van Vuuren was killed instantly, his body badly mangled, so much so that he was only identified when the race director called all marshals together and identified the victim by process of elimination. At the time of impact, he was carrying a 40 lb. fire extinguisher used to combat the fire from the previous incident. When he was struck by Pryce’s car, the extinguisher smashed into Pryce’s head with enough force to remove Pryce’s helmet. The extinguisher still had enough force to ricochet from Pryce’s head over the grandstands, into a car lot, and hit a parked car hard enough to jam its door shut.

Pryce’s car hit metal barriers, an entrance for emergency vehicles, then another racer’s car which sent both vehicles into barriers. This other driver survived.

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