Fireball lights up demolition derby

Tracey Curry

For the third year in a row, it was a night of injuries and close calls for demolition derby drivers at the Wayne County Fair.

Bennie Hollins suffered a head injury Saturday night when he was hit by a passenger-side airbag that deployed after he slammed another competitor head-on.

The Fairport man, knocked out cold for a couple of minutes, was extricated from his derby car shortly after 8 p.m. Firefighters loaded Hollins on a stretcher and carried him to a waiting Newark-Arcadia Volunteer Ambulance. Emergency crews then drove him to a baseball field on the grounds of the nearby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where Mercy Flight was summoned to take him to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Hollins was driving a car sponsored by his employer, Alpco Recycling in Macedon. A company spokesman said Monday that he had returned to work that morning and his injuries were not serious.

The derby incident wasn’t the only one of the day. In the first heat, former Palmyra firefighter Rob LaRose crawled out the window of his car just before it burst into flames.

LaRose’s car broke a gas line and was leaving a trail of the flammable liquid across the field. When a second car’s carburetor sparked, it ignited the stream of fuel, creating a line of fire back to LaRose.

The spectators in the packed stands rose to their feet, yelling, “Get out of the car” as they watched the fire getting closer and closer to LaRose. Firefighters ran with hoses from their infield positions, also yelling to the driver to get out.

It took firefighters several minutes to extinguish the flames. LaRose was not injured.

Last year, the exhaust on LaRose’s ride backfired and a spark ignited a pool of gasoline leaking from the tank of a stalled car. In that instance, LaRose quickly crawled out the rear window as flames erupted around his car and engulfed two other vehicles.

It was also another year that a driver had to be flown to a hospital for injuries. Two years ago, Tom Fox Sr. of Farmington was seriously injured when he collided with another car and then was hit from behind by another vehicle. The impact from the dual collisions caused Fox’s body to slam into the steering wheel. Taking the full impact in his chest, he was rendered unconscious.

The race was halted, and firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove the roof of the car to free him from the wreckage. He was airlifted by Mercy Flight to Strong, where he was treated for a fractured sternum and a severe bruise, called a hematoma.