Steuben man survives 130-mph crash

Posted Sept. 06, 2009, at 9:26 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 05, 2011, at 7:41 p.m.

WINTERPORT, Maine — A Steuben man suffered only minor injuries at the Winterport Dragway on Sunday when he flipped his high-performance 1987 Camaro at a speed of nearly 130 mph.

David Smeal, 51, said he remembers feeling the race car slide out of control and its first couple of flips.

“After that I think I must have blacked out,” he said. He was wearing a helmet and a safety harness, and the vehicle is outfitted with a roll cage to protect the driver.

Track manager Rick Palmer said the Camaro flipped end over end numerous times before coming to rest at the far end of the one-eighth-mile track. Smeal had accelerated from zero to 130 mph in 5.5 seconds.

“It’s a very fast car, and a very powerful car,” Palmer said. “It just got sideways, somehow, at the end.” The accident occurred shortly after 11 a.m.

Smeal, who has owned the Camaro for three years, isn’t sure what went wrong.

“I was just beginning to let off [on the accelerator] and the back end came around and she just spun around,” he said Sunday evening during a telephone interview from his home.

An ambulance crew from Winterport went to the accident scene and cut Smeal out of his demolished vehicle. He was transported by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where he was treated and then released. He suffered a black eye and some other bruises but no broken bones or other serious inju-ries in the accident.

Will he race again?

“I think I’m getting too old for that foolishness,” he said.

Palmer said a crowd of several hundred racers and spectators cleared the area during the rescue, but racing resumed as soon as the wrecked Camaro had been moved off the field.

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