Race Car Driver Hailed A Hero

Wednesday, April 9th 2008, 11:43 pm
By: News On 6

A Tulsa Sprint car driver pulled a young driver from her burning race car just one year after he was saved from a wreck. News On 6 Anchor Jennifer Loren reports it happened at a race in Oklahoma City, prompting possible new safety regulations for young drivers and their cars.

Mini-Sprint car racing is a growing sport especially among young kids. Tulsa driver, Donnie Ray Crawford, has been racing since he was just thirteen years old. Wednesday night, the Oklahoma racing community is calling him a hero.

"It always feels good to be called a hero. But, I just feel like anybody would have done it and I was just at the right place at the right time," said Ray Crawford, Sprint Car Driver.

He's talking about a fiery crash last Saturday at the I-44 Speedway in Southwest Oklahoma City.

"It was totally engulfed in flames, 15 foot high flames, just absolutely unreal," said Crawford.

Twelve-year old Mini-Sprint car driver, Harli White, was burned over 50% of her body. You can see the marks still on the track from the fiery crash. Witnesses say Harli would not have survived if Crawford hadn't saved her.

"I was able to grab her, I pulled on her, I couldn't get her out. I saw that she was hooked on a seatbelt. So, I was able to move the seatbelt, free her up and pull her out, lay on her and smother the fire off her," said Crawford.

Crawford was able to reach the girl when others couldn't because he was decked out in high-quality, fire-retardant safety gear.

Mike Stewart runs a racing store in Tulsa. He says safety gear like Crawford's has been flying off his shelves this week, all in response to Saturday's wreck.

"And each layer just gives you another 30 seconds or so to help you get out of a situation like that little girl was in," said Mike Stewart with Car and Fleet Parts.

He says it's expensive, but then again, lives like Harli White's are priceless.

"You know it's a tragedy that it takes something like this to get everybody woke up," said Stewart.

We're told Harli White was wearing safety gear good enough to qualify for the race, but not good enough for such an intense fire. The rest of this week's races were cancelled while officials weigh the possibility of new safety regulations.

Harli is at a burn center in Texas where she's scheduled for several surgeries. Her family says she's doing okay.

Find more stories on NewsOn6.com's Local News page.