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Drag Boat Racer Capaldi Dies in Crash at Puddingstone Lake

April 11, 1994|LARRY STEWART

Drag boat racer Tim Capaldi, 31, of West Hills was killed Sunday when his boat crashed during the International Hot Boat Assn. Springnationals at Puddingstone Lake in San Dimas.

Capaldi, a three-time IHBA blown alcohol hydro world champion, was going nearly 200 m.p.h. when his boat, Mission Possible, crashed after he had finished a first-round elimination race.

"It was a perfect run and a couple hundred yards past the finish line, the parachutes went out and for whatever reason the boat hopped a couple times, crashed and disintegrated," said Jeff Wolf of Pacific Drag Boat Promotions, the race promoter.

Karin Mosher, publicist for Capaldi Racing, said Capaldi still had a heartbeat when he was pulled from the lake by helicopter. He was airlifted to Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora.

Capaldi was engaged to be married May 7 to Shelly Cooke of West Hills. He is survived by his parents, Ray and Jo Capaldi of Paso Robles, originally from Tarzana, and a sister, Teri.

Capaldi is not the first boating fatality at Puddingstone, located in the Frank G. Bonelli County Regional Park. On Oct. 4, 1992, Denver Mullins, 48, of Rialto drowned in another accident at an IHBA event, and on June 11, 1989, Bill Thomas Jr., 33, of Alta Loma, was killed when his drag boat flipped during a world-record attempt. Jerry Fulgham of Whittier lost an arm in a crash at Puddingstone in September, 1987.

In the 1989 Springnationals, Capaldi suffered a broken back, hand and shoulder while racing in the same lane as he did Sunday. Capaldi, the first to drive a boat in the blown alcohol hydro class more than 200 m.p.h., came back from that accident to win the 1989 class championship, but he then retired from the sport because of safety concerns.

He turned to racing dragsters and continued to compete in auto racing after returning to boat racing in 1992. He came back because of a newly developed capsule designed to separate from wrecked boats, then fill with oxygen to prevent drowning.

The capsule, credited with saving countless lives in the dangerous sport, was designed by Mullins, who drowned when his capsule malfunctioned and did not separate from his boat. It was not known if Capaldi's capsule malfunctioned.

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