MONTE DUTTON – THE WILD BLUE YONDER
For what it’s worth, I have never known anyone killed in a commercial airline crash. On the other hand, I’ve had several friends whose lives were lost in private crashes. It may be a coincidence.
At this stage of my life, I don’t much care to fly. I don’t have the slightest bit of fear. With the airlines, I flew a lot of USAir, Delta, American and Continental over the years, and my main misgiving is based on ease of travel. Convenience, comfort, courtesy and timeliness went slowly down the tubes for 20 years. Every single one of them seemed worse than the year before.
This topic arises, obviously, in the aftermath of the crash that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family survived. I hesitate to call it “a near-miss” since it was accurately a near-hit, or, in this case, a survived hit.
I don’t fear private planes, either. Carl Edwards once gave me a ride home from Missouri. He was headed to Concord, N.C. I was headed to Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C. I was prepared to rent a car to get back to mine, but Carl obligingly landed at GSP in what reminded me of a pit stop. He came to a halt, “crewmen” dashed out to fetch my luggage, I climbed out, and away Carl went again.
I took a ride on a NASCAR plane to Myrtle Beach with Dale Jarrett, there to write a magazine article about the almost-forgotten, short-lived NASCAR Cafe chain. Tony Stewart transported me across the Florida peninsula to watch his greyhounds race.
For every tragedy – Curtis Turner, Richie Panch, Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, Hendrick Motorsports, etc. – I bet there are 10 “near-hits.”
The Stewart plane I flew on later grazed a deer running across a runway on a fuel stop in Texas. I vividly remember driving to a Birmingham, Ala., hospital where Jack Roush had been taken following his crash into a pond while testing an experimental crash.
I hadn’t arrived in Bristol when the Kulwicki crash occurred but was there when the transporter circled the track on the way home. I heard about Davey Allison’s helicopter crash on the radio.
Beyond NASCAR? John Denver, Rick Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline …
And beyond the actual crashes, the untrue rumors.
At least four times I arrived at a race track and got a call from the office telling me that there were rumors Bobby Labonte had been in a plane crash. I have no explanation why it was always Bobby Labonte. Perhaps someone out there – as comedian James Gregory would say, “some nut” – just loved to spread Bobby Labonte rumors. Thank goodness Labonte retired before there was a Twitter. There may have been a MySpace then.
Most days, on Facebook, I get at least one “friend request” from a beautiful woman with a strange name (“Anthony Jasmine”) who has almost no information on her “page.” Such requests I have learned to delete. Fortunately, it seems unlikely that Russian hackers want to foment division in NASCAR.
Nowadays, most of the crashes that come to my attention involve the crossing of a center line and a decedent who was unbelted and ejected. Or, more recently, a star quarterback who, from police reports, apparently had his speeding car poop-attacked by cocaine-addled pigeons.
I don’t know how Russian hackers managed to pull that off.