At Powercruise #10, the Christmas family, Coy and Alex, were giving rides for charity. They offered 5 minutes (typically 1 lap) rides in their incredible car collection in exchange for a donation to “Cruise for Cancer”. The rides were a Twin Turbo Ford GT, a right hand drive R34 GT-R, a Twin Turbo Lamborghini from Underground Racing making nearly 1500 horsepower.
It is important to stress that Powercruise is not a race. It is not a timed event. It is meant to get into a closed course with all of your good friends and people that you share this hobby with, and go for a cruise. Drivers are briefed on safety in the driver’s meeting every morning before the track goes hot.
There is one obvious risk we take when we attend these events: accidents. For a lot of us, it is a risk we take with an assumption that it cannot happen to us. Unfortunately, it can. This past weekend, it did. A Lamborghini Huracan, turbocharged to almost 1500 horsepower piloted by Coy Christmas lost traction and spun into a wall. He made every effort to ensure that impact was minimized, which is a feat in itself. I was standing under the bridge at turn 9 at Brainerd International Raceway where it happened. It was an absolutely horrifying event to witness, but what came next was worse.
When the dust settled, the driver’s door did not immediately open and the car was very quickly engulfed in flames. It was a matter of less than 2 seconds from impact to settling and the fire. I was glued to my viewfinder screaming for Coy to open the door, but nothing happened. It was in that moment that a person far braver than I showed himself.
AJ Santiago (previously seen on Short Shift helping rescue the first Midnight Purple R34 GTR in the country) was the passenger in this horrific accident. He says that “in the cockpit we were planning our survival” and was immediately out of the car and on his feet. Without hesitation, he was on the driver’s side ripping the door open. It was a improbable that it was able to open, but with the fire engulfing the car, AJ Santiago was doing everything he could to save his best friend.
In the pictures below, you can see that while the car was in the air, the flames were shooting out of the passenger window. The Lamborghini Huracan has an engine mounted behind the cockpit and the glass separating the two had shattered. This allowed the fire to enter the cabin. Strangely, no airbags deployed in the incident.
AJ recounts, “When I got to the driver’s side, the fire was quickly gaining momentum and the (door) handle had already melted. The driver’s side rear wheel and suspension were gone. The roof was collapsed from the roll. Coy was unconscious.”
Despite the obvious danger of doing so, Denis Cherniy, Brian Kulys and Sean Nagle rushed over to help AJ in getting Coy to safety. It was a terrifying situation and they helped without pause.
Coy would like to add, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for AJs fast actions and the actions of the others who came to help.”
AJ and Coy both would like to acknowledge the first responders, hospital staff and flight crew. After the accident, AJ was airlifted to Minneapolis for 2nd and 3rd degree burns.
AJ also would like to stress that this was not a race or a timed event. It is a cruise on a closed course. Having seen what happened, first hand, I can say with absolute certainty this could have happened to anyone. There was no egregious driver error that led to this terrible incident. It could have been something as simple as fluid or gravel on the ground.
None of that really matters. What matters is that due to the bravery of AJ, Denis, Brian and Sean, along with the speed of the first responders, no life was lost. AJ reports that he is well and in good spirits. He is in quite a lot of pain, but is recovering. Coy is quite sore, but ultimately incredibly thankful for those who came to his rescue.
The images in the gallery are graphic. Discretion is advised.