Competitors in the second heat race for Grand Prix Hydroplanes were heading into the second turn of the first lap when the GP-12 Schellhase Racing/Miss DeJulio boat started to slow.
It didn’t take long for smoke and flames to begin pouring out of the engine.
Driver Greg Hopp was driving the boat, and during the race a methanol leak occurred in the engine.
“There was a heat emission, and it burned through and sprayed oil everywhere,” Hopp said.
That started the engine fire.
Hopp wasn’t aware of it, but he did lose power. He was trying to get inside the course, and then he noticed the rescue sleds were high-tailing it for him.
“That doesn’t normally happen in the middle of the race,” Hopp said. “Then I looked in the mirror and saw the fire.”
It got hot fast, and Hopp got out and dived into the river.
“It’s fixable, but not here,” said Hopp.
The fire was the second major incident on the Columbia River Saturday. Earlier in the day, the E-20 5-liter hydroplane driven by Travis Johnston broke apart in the water as it hit the Columbia River near fans on the Franklin County side of the river during a heat race.
Rescue divers raced to the overturned hydroplane and jumped into the water to rescue Johnston from the disabled boat. Johnston escaped injury.
Former Herald sports editor Jeff Morrow contributed to this report.