The shocking crash of the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix
A fatal crash that shocked the viewers, but also showed brilliant sportsmanship of one driver
Back when Formula 1 was starting to get a proper television time, people witnessed many live crashes and deaths on their TVs. The first thing that comes to our mind is Ayrton Senna's death, right? However, there was an older crash that really shocked the audience.
The 1970s era of F1 was known as the "bloody 70s", because the safety standards were miserable and drivers were just waiting for their turn to enter afterlife.
The moment of the accident. Credit: The-fastlane.co.uk
On 29th July 1973, Netherlands was the home of the Grand Prix. At the starting line, a young driver Roger Williamson was in his March STR waiting for the lights to go green. He made his debut two weeks before at the British Grand Prix, but he was forced to retire mid-race. However, his life ended tragically at the Zandvoort track when his car lost control, crashed into a barrier, rolled over and caught fire.
This was the scene that shocked the viewers.
Williamson wasn't injured, but he was trapped under the car that was being engulfed in flames. The track marshals just stood there helpless because they weren't trained to face the fire and had no fireproof outfits. Then, another March STR driver, David Purley stopped his car, got out and tried to turn Williamson's flaming car back on wheels...with his hands.
You can clearly see signs of sadness and despair on Purley. Credit: TwistedSifter.com
When his attempt proved to be hopeless, he then took a fire extinguisher from one of the marshals and tried to put the fire out. Sadly, that was also in vain. Purley stated that he could hear Williamson scream. By the time the first trained fireman arrived, the young March STR died from suffocating.
The aftermath. Credit: TwistedSifter.com
Other drivers were just passing by the crash site, thinking that Purley had an accident and that no one was hurt. This tragic accident had big consequences, and it resulted with a new rule in F1 stating that all track marshals are required to wear fireproof clothes.
As for Purley, he was awarded the King George Medal for showing great courage and amazing sportsmanship in the attempt to save his friend. Sadly, life didn't have good plans for him either. He died in a plane crash on 2nd July 1985.
Williamson (left) and Purley (right). Credit for both pictures: SnapLap.net