Bob Motz fires up his 20,000-horsepower Jet Kenworth in a file photo. A Putnam County man has filed a suit against Motz and Kanawha Valley Dragway Park after he rescued Motz from the burning vehicle after an accident during a 2007 event.
POINT PLEASANT - A Putnam County man is alleging he was severely injured during a mishap that occurred at a highly touted racing event in Mason County.
In Mason Circuit Court, Frank Paul Wingo of Hurricane filed a lawsuit against both the owners of the World's Fastest Truck, and the Kanawha Valley Dragway Park. In his complaint filed on Jan. 30 with the assistance of Teays Valley attorney Wayne Van Bibber, the 54-year-old Wingo alleges all were responsible for burns he suffered when the truck caught fire during an appearance at KVDP in 2007.
According to court records, Wingo was at KVDP in Southside on June 23, 2007, during an appearance of the World's Fastest Truck, a tractor trailer rig with a jet engine. As they had in the past, KVDP officials asked Wingo to be a starter for the event for which they paid him a cash incentive.
Though records are unclear as to how or when, the truck's cab caught fire, trapping the owner and driver, Robert Motz, inside. Nevertheless, after the fire started, Wingo states in his lawsuit that he "approached the burning truck cab in order to extinguish the flames and save the life of Defendant Robert Motz."
Though he does not specify, Wingo alleges he sustained "temporary and permanent serious injuries" in his effort to fight the fire and rescue Motz. He claims his injuries were a direct result of KVDP officials failing to provide adequate fire suppression equipment and personnel during the event.
In his suit, Wingo alleges as a result of the defendants' negligence he "suffered great pain of body and mind, past and future; has incurred and will be required in the future to incur certain sums of money for and about the treatment of his injuries; sustained a loss of income, past and future; and suffered a diminution in his ability to enjoy life." Also, Wingo's wife, Penny, 53, who is listed as co-plaintiff, makes a claim for loss of consortium.
In addition to KVDP and Motz, Wingo lists Marshall Strawther and the International Hot Rod Association as co-defendants. According to Wingo's lawsuit, Strawther operates and leases the Park, and the IHRA promotes and sanctions its events.
The Wingos are seeking unspecified damages, costs and fees.
Different defendants, answers
Through their attorney James D. McQueen Jr., with the Charleston law firm of Frost Brown Todd, Strawther and IRHA filed their respective answers to Wingo's lawsuit on March 13. Both deny the allegations except that Motz and his truck were present at KVDP on June 23, 2007.
Though Strawther denied promoting or sanctioning the event, IHRA, Inc. admitted it did, but qualified its admission by saying only its subsidiary, IHRA, LLC, a Texas-chartered corporation with principal offices in Beverly Hills, Calif, sanctions events.
In their defense, both Strawther and IHRA said Wingo is at fault for his own injuries as he knew he would be at risk of getting burned when he attempted to extinguish the fire. Furthermore, they deny his claims that allowing Motz' rocket-propelled truck to operate on the drag strip was not "ultra hazardous…nor …abnormally dangerous."
In filing its answer to Wingo's suit on March 27, KVDP via its attorney Harold S. Albertson of Charleston, said it was without sufficient information to admit or deny virtually all of Wingo's allegations. The only one to which it admitted was that it is a " a business entity formed and licensed in the State of West Virginia for the purpose of owning and operating a drag racing site."
Like Strawther and IHRA, KVDP said Wingo knew the risk he was taking when he not only came to the event, but also attempted to fight the fire. However, they went a step further by filing a cross claim against all the other defendants saying if Wingo was damaged in any way, it was their fault.
As of press time, Motz, who records show lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, had yet to file his answer to the lawsuit.
The case has been assigned to Judge David W. Nibert.
Mason Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-09