Fuel fire­ball claims racer’s life

Clas­sic en­thu­si­ast suc­cumbs to fa­tal in­juries while work­ing on his ve­hi­cle

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

A for­mer racing driver and clas­sic car owner has died in a fire­ball be­lieved to have been sparked by static when he rubbed his hands on his clothes – which were soaked in petrol.

Great-grand­fa­ther Fred Saun­ders, 84, sus­tained fa­tal burns dur­ing the freak ac­ci­dent at his home while he was drain­ing the tank of his mo­torhome fol­low­ing a small petrol leak. Fred had pre­vi­ously raced Crossle sin­gle seaters and owned a Stan­dard 8.

Dur­ing the work, Fred’s fleece jacket and trousers be­came cov­ered in fuel. It is un­der­stood that his clothes then ig­nited through the static elec­tric­ity caused when he tried to wipe his hands clean. His part­ner, Sue Read, man­aged to ex­tin­guish the flames and called the emer­gency ser­vices who at­tended their home near Ye­o­ford, Devon, at around 7.30pm on 16 April.

Fred was treated at the scene be­fore be­ing flown to South­mead Hospi­tal in Bris­tol but died at 3pm the fol­low­ing day.

Sue said that her hus­band had en­joyed a Sun­day at Hather­leigh Au­to­jum­ble and watch­ing the For­mula 1 on tele­vi­sion be­fore he started work­ing on his ve­hi­cle. She says: ‘I think I was aware of some­thing. I have been try­ing to work it out and can’t – it was just a blur. He was work­ing on his old camper van, and then – whoosh! I just went numb and turned into a trans­fixed rab­bit in the head lights.

‘He was a lovely bloke. Kind, gen­er­ous – and stub­born. There was a right way, a wrong way – and Fred’s way. He was a one-off. A very, prac­ti­cal man. Lots of peo­ple are say­ing that he was a leg­end.’

Fred was a mem­ber of the Devon Vin­tage Car Club, which runs the au­to­jum­ble he at­tended on the day of the fire. Club sec­re­tary Mau­rice Wil­liams says: ‘Fred was a long-time mem­ber of The Devon Vin­tage Car Club with his part­ner, Sue. He was ex­tremely well-liked in the com­mu­nity and will be sorely missed. The Club of­fers our sin­cere con­do­lences to Sue and to his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.’

As well as be­ing a for­mer racing driver, Fred also held jobs as a pub land­lord, sailor, pi­lot, farmer, deep sea welder, and even kept Shire horses. A full in­quest is ex­pected to be held at a later date.

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