There was rain, fire, soap suds and fog in the most bizarre Daytona 500 in history.
When it was all over, Matt Kenseth was the only sure thing.
It wasn't even close.
Kenseth capped a crazy 36 hours for NASCAR by winning the first postponed Daytona 500 in 55 editions of the marquee event. He held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle over a two-lap overtime finish in a race that was scheduled to begin Sunday morning Pacific time but ended late Monday.
Rain at Daytona International Speedway first forced NASCAR to push the race to Monday afternoon, then Monday night for the first-ever 500 in primetime television. Then a freak accident caused a massive fuel fire that stopped the race for two hours as safety workers used Tide laundry detergent to clean up the track.
When the racing finally resumed, it was obvious it was Kenseth's to lose as nobody had anything to challenge his Ford.
Journeyman driver Dave Blaney was leading when a problem with Juan Pablo Montoya's car sent him spinning under caution into a safety truck.
The truck, which holds 200 gallons of jet kerosene, burst into flames. Montoya's car slid into the grass, and he gingerly climbed from it as fire trucks rushed to the scene. The inferno raged on, and NASCAR red-flagged the race with 40 laps remaining.
The race was delayed 2 hours, 5 minutes and 29 seconds while track workers scrambled to fix the track.
"About the time you think you've seen about everything, you see something like this," NASCAR president Mike Helton said.
NASCAR officials examined the track surface and determined the race could continue. Blaney's lead was short-lived, however, as he had to pit for gas.
Jet fuel poured down the surface of Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway after the accident, creating a fiery lasting image of NASCAR's biggest race of the year. The clean-up crews were using boxes of Tide laundry detergent to clean up the fuel.
It was par for the course for this Daytona 500.
It took several minutes for safety workers to put out the fire, and then came the task of removing the truck from the track and cleaning up all that spilled fuel. Towing the truck from the steep banking presented a challenge, as NASCAR was nervous any movement would dig into the track surface.
Montoya, who said his helmet was singed in the fire and his foot ached, said he felt a vibration in his car before the accident.
"I've hit a lot of things — but a jet dryer?" he said. "It just felt really strange, and as I was talking on the radio, the car just turned right."
The drivers were allowed to exit their cars after about 10 minutes under the red flag. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been complaining he had to go to the bathroom, and Brad Keselowski was posting to his Twitter account from inside his car.
This is quite a dramatic piece of video from OSPVideos.com (the official race videographers for Oklahoma Sports Park) that occurred Saturday. In the end all drivers walked away. Make sure you listen to the announcer. Here's part of the description with the clip:
A fiery crash involving Terry Muskrat, Brian Wolfe and Steve Little during the 50-lap main feature of the 2nd Annual Stock Car Nationals at Oklahoma Sports Park (www.oklahomasportspark.com). The driver that comes to the rescue is Kip Hughes (last years winner of the event).
The NTSB has launched an investigation into today's deadly collision between an Amtrak train and a semi-truck on Highway 95 near the I-80 Trinity exit.
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez says five or six people were killed in the 11:30am accident on U.S. Highway 95 about 70 miles east of Reno. The California Zephyr was en route 2,400 miles from Chicago to Emeryville, California.
Amtrak officials say there were about 204 passengers on the train and 14 crew members. It was Train 5, the westbound California Zephyr, heading from Chicago to Emeryville.
Nevada Highway Patrol told FOX40 witnesses told them the train’s crossing lights were working at the time of the collision. The semi collided with the 4th car of the train. The semi was empty at the time, and there was just the driver inside the cab.
This is WSVN-TV's initial coverage moments after a plane crashed as it took off from Opa-Locka Airport yesterday morning. The plane hit trees and two vehicles and burst into flames as it made a path leading up to a home in Miami Gardens, a community adjacent to the airport. One person, apparently the pilot, was killed.
The news chopper arrived over the scene before Miami-Dade firefighters pulled up. This coverage shows a combination of live video as the first firefighters go to work and video shot immediately after the crash. It also shows the fire department from the Opa-Locka Airport arriving and foaming down the wreckage. Click here for more coverage from WSVN-TV.
This, to me, is quite interesting and I am not sure what to make of it. In the WUSA9.com report above by Surae Chinn is a brief video by a motorist who happened upon a burning tractor-trailer on the Capital Beltway in Forestville, Maryland (I-95 South at D’Arcy Road in Prince George’s County). The person who shot the video is in a vehicle returning from the University of Maryland Baltimore County around 11:00 last night. The fire was the result of a three vehicle crash that left the truck driver dead on the scene.
What I find fascinating (and I know I shouldn’t be surprised) is, looking at the raw video, the people in the car with the camera see the fire under the bridge ahead, drive past six police vehicles on the right side of the road (by my count) and then continue under the burning overpass anyway so they can get their pictures and get where they are going.
Obviously, we don’t know how long the police had been on the scene at the time this video was taken and what they were up against. I imagine a priority would soon be to keep others out of harm’s way (particularly those who aren’t thinking clearly enough to do it themselves).
The fire extended from the truck cab to the underside of the bridge. Sheets of plywood and wooden supports had been previously installed on the underside of the bridge to prevent crumbling concrete to fall onto the Beltway. Brush fires ignited and travelled up the embankments towards Darcy Road. Firefighters were successful in stopping the fire extension into the trailer portion of the 18-wheeler. The trailer was about 25% loaded with bags of sugar.
Incident commanders immediately requested additional resources to the Beltway and to Darcy Road to deal with the fire. A total of 60 firefighters and medics were on the scene on-board 10 pieces of apparatus and numerous command and support vehicles. Both loops of the Beltway and Darcy Road were shut down while the fire was being extinguished which required about 45 minutes.
I've had a busy few days trying to answer every critical comment about my posting of the video below. It's the confrontation between a Connecticut State Police trooper and a news photographer that occurred a week ago along I-95 in Fairfield, Connecticut . So far there are 87 comments from readers plus 53 responses from me. At some point soon, after my head stops swimming, I am going to digest my thoughts and write a follow-up column or two about the conversations I've had with the readers of STATter911.com.
My belief, based on what I know about such things, is that a trooper or any other first responder or agent of our government does not have the legal right to tell a citizen or the press what they can and can't shoot in a public place or decide for us what is newsworthy. Based on the comments, those who believe that are in the minority (or maybe I am just part of a silent majority and don't know it?).
One person who thinks I'm right is Dave Levy. I have known Dave since he was a young teenager. I was a friend of his father, the late Sheldon Levy. Sheldon was a long time photojournalist who started Action Movie News in New York before coming to Washington and eventually working with me at Channel 9 beginning in the mid-1980s. Sheldon was also a chief officer at the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.
Dave was a volunteer firefighter for 10-years in Prince George's County. He is now a corporate lawyer (and fire buff) in Chicago. He makes some interesting points in this column.
I know. I know. Save your venom. Yes, I'm very aware that for many of you the only other people you hold in as low esteem as journalists (or a former one like me) are lawyers. That's a given. Let's agree on that now. So, when you comment on what he has to say, just dispute or support David's facts, his logic or his reasoning. We know we are scum to some of you and we accept that.
If you would like for STATter911.com to consider publishing your views on this or other topics please contact me at email@example.com.
A Few Thoughts on Freedom of the Press, Emergency Services, and a Pissed Off Trooper
by Dave Levy
The debate about the Connecticut state trooper tantrum followed a familiar path: Cameraman sets up his equipment at an accident scene. Trooper goes berserk in front of the camera. The footage is posted to the Internet. Some people are upset with the trooper. Others are upset with the cameraman. Debate ensues.
From what I can tell from the comments, the debate followed a path that we've all seen play out once or twice before. Although the comments bore a sense of familiarity, however, there were three interesting points lurking under the surface. The first was a delicious irony, the second was a lesson for the present, and the third was a lesson for the future.
Let's start with the delicious irony. A few months back, this blog posted a video in which a police officer arrested an on-duty fire captain for refusing to reposition a rig. Another post contained a video which showed a police officer choking a paramedic while a heart patient sat in the back of the rig. In each case, a police officer was the aggressor, a member of the fire service was the victim, and the best piece of evidence was provided by a well-placed video camera. In each case, the camera was critical to the fire service's side of the story simply because the police officer's conduct was so over-the-top that any written account of the incident would lack believability. From what I remember, no one in the fire service voiced loud objection to the idea that someone might record a police officer mistreating a member of the fire service.
Before proceeding to the lesson for the present, let me ask a question: In the two examples above, would you feel better if we lived in a country where a police officer could assault a firefighter in public and then use his police power — the power of the government — to prevent a civilian from photographing the event? If you answered "yes," please stop reading, as there is no hope for you. If you answered "no," then you might be interested in what I think is the lesson for the present:
As a firefighter, PM, or police officer, you become an agent of the government from the moment your shift starts until the moment your shift ends.
Being an agent of the government provides a tremendous amount of power. People have to get out your way when you're en route to a call. You're allowed to step behind the yellow tape. You're allowed to break windows and knock down doors. And if someone interferes with your work, they can end up in handcuffs.
Although the government can only work through its agents, and those agents are human beings, those human beings are not allowed to be emotional and be agents of the government at the same time. In other words, if you're going to be an agent of the government, you have to keep your emotions in check, at least when you're in public.
This brings us to the unfortunate incident involving the state trooper. Simply put, however good the trooper's intentions were, an agent of the government (the trooper) does not have the Constitutional power to tell a private citizen (the cameraman) who is standing on a public street what he can and cannot photograph. That is the heart of the First Amendment. It is what separates the United States government from the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian governments. Our government already exercises too much control over our day-to-day affairs. Giving government agents the right to tell a private citizen who is standing on a public street what types of newsworthy events – whether a car accident or a police officer choking a medic or locking up a fire captain — can and cannot be photographed should make peoples' hair stand on end. If you don't believe me, then visit one of the Chinese state-run news outlets – such as http://www.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/index.htm — and take a good long look at what the news looks like when the government gets to decide what its people can and cannot see. I don't read the Chinese news very often, but when I do, I count my lucky stars that I was born an American.
All of this leads to what I think is the lesson for the future: What do you do if you're on a call and a photographer is doing something that is lawful but offensive? As I see it, you have three options:
OPTION 1: You can obstruct the photographer's view by parking a rig or constructing a tarp between the camera and the part of the scene that is giving you trouble. The photographer can still get a picture that helps document the scene, the public gets to know what's going on, and you (the agent of the government) are happy. (As an aside, this strategy does not work well when someone is trying to conceal misconduct. If the police had tried this in the incidents that I used in my example, the cover up would have been worse than the underlying misconduct, and the s*** would have really hit the fan. The extent to which a free press can curb government abuse is amazing.)
OPTION 2: You can move the yellow tape back and keep ALL civilians (not just the media) behind the tape. This can be difficult at times, but is usually do-able.
OPTION 3: You can wait until you're off duty and then express your views in whatever way you see fit (consistent with other legal requirements). For example, you can: (i) start your own anti-media blog (I'm sure Statter will post a link); (ii) post an anti-media YouTube rant and hope it goes viral; (iii) complain to the TV station, picket in front of the TV station, etc. You can even make it your business to buff calls in your off-duty time and stand in front of any cameraman who is taking pictures that you might find offensive. This is a free country, and there is absolutely no crime in that, so long as you do it in your personal capacity and not in your capacity as a government agent.
I hesitate to make this statement in front of a crowd like this, but it seems appropriate to note that freedom is so incredibly precious precisely because it is so incredibly costly in every measurable way. That is what led Winston Churchill to quip that democracy is the worst political system on the planet, except for all the others. Whether you like it or not, our system of freedom relies on a number of key institutions, one of which is a free press.
Multiple vehicles burn in front of motel: Firefighter Spot found this one first. The cars were burning at the Comfort Inn off Scott Avenue in the Morgantown, West Virginia area on Monday.
Radio traffic from fire engine crash in Baltimore: Baltimore City Fire Department Engine 36 and Engine 14 both were responding on the box at 1223 Mosher Street when each rig ended up on the northeast corner of Edmondson Avenue and N. Fulton Avenue. We have details, some pictures and two versions of the radio traffic (one on the collision and the other focusing on the fire, which went to two-alarms). Here is our coverage.
The chief and the council chairman have a civil public meeting.
A veritable love fest: One of my favorite TV shows are the episodes of the DC City Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary where Chief Dennis Rubin is the guest star. For more than a year it has been the place to go if you like public hearings that aren’t dry and boring. Even when they have dealt with the type of budget minutiae that puts many of us in the mood for a power nap, Chief Rubin and Chairman Phil Mendelson have kept the conversation quite lively. Basically they just don’t get along. But if Monday’s hearing on overtime is any indication, maybe these two may have buried the fire axe. In one hour and fifteen minutes of facing each other there was none of the fireworks that we’ve seen in the past. Check it out yourself. Also, here is Chief Rubin’s written testimony explaining the issues behind over budget overtime spending.
Judge reverses arbitrator leaving Buffalo firefighters having to pay back the city: On average, firefighters could be out $230 each month to reimburse the city for a pay raise a judge says they shouldn’t have received. That’s on top of rolling back the increase. The union makes the case this could actually be a good thing. Here’s the story.
Union president fired, two others suspended over spreading of information about chief and his wife: This is an update on a story we previously told you about in Jackson Township, Ohio. Despite support coming from as far away as Colorado, the town trustees fired Scott Harr, who is president of IAFF Local 2672. Two other firefighters were suspended. They are accused of leaking details from an incident report about a response to their chief’s home involving a domestic issue. Even though there is a union, the firefighters do not have collective bargaining under Ohio law that exempts unincorporated areas of less than 5,000 people. Read the latest.
One of the more amazing stories in recent days: Firegeezer takes a close-up look at how that trucker in Dallas, Texas escaped his rig during a fiery crash that left the flaming wreckage dangling over a bridge. Take a look.