Dead Hydroplane Racers Memorial
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Many of our older database's Coeur D'Alene's items have been disappointments: Fish-Shaped Restaurant -- Gone. 24-Foot Tall Cowboy Wayne -- can't find, assumed gone. [Justin confirms: "Giant Cowboy Wayne is gone. People used to steal his giant leather chaps all the time. The place finally went out of business."]
But we stumbled upon something nice, right near the boat docks at The Resort at Lake Coeur d'Alene. On a stone pedestal some four feet cubed, and surrounded by a flower bed, was a brushed metal hydroplane boat, and sweeping up from its metal wake was a jet fighter. The plaque on the pedestal reads "In Memory of Warner E. Gardner, Lt. Col. U.S.A.F. (Ret.) and Fellow Drivers Who Devoted So Much To Hydroplane Racing." We assumed Col. Gardner bought it here on the lake, maybe in one of those black and white hydroplane disaster films you used to see on Wide World of Sports. But further research indicated that Gardner died in a wreck in Michigan (see below).
Also interesting is that while Hydroplane races were extremely popular in the Pacific Northwest in the 1950s and 1960s, they have been permanently banned in the town of Coeur d'Alene by a voter initiative, due to the unruly crowds they attracted. Harrison, a small town on the lake, still occasionally hosts smaller limiteds.
According to our records, fifteen drivers and crewmen have been killed in the sport. We suppose the monument in Coeur d'Alene salutes them all:
Drivers and crewmen killed during unlimited hydroplane races and testing
Year Driver Site
1951 Orth Mathiot Seattle, WA
Thom Whittaker Seattle
1961 Bob Hayward Detroit, MI
1966 Ron Musson Washington, D.C.
Don Wilson Washington
Rex Manchester Washington.
Chuck Thompson Detroit
1967 Bill Brow Tampa, FL
1968 Warner Gardner Detroit
1970 Tommy Fults San Diego, CA
1974 Skip Walther Miami, FL
1977 Jerry Bangs Seattle
1981 Bill Muncey Acapulco, Mexico
1982 Dean Chenoweth Kennewick, WA
2000 George Stratton, San Diego, CA