Who is Chris Rini? Rini is a professional Drag Racer. Specifically he races in the Pro Nitrous class of the Professional Drag Racers Association. Some of his accolades include:
2013 Extreme Outlaw ProMods Driver of the Year
2013 Extreme Outlaw ProMods Iron Man of the Year
2013 Big Dog Runner up
2010 and 2012 NMCA Pro Street Champion, 2012 Big Dog Champion
Back in March Rini was involved in a racing accident during the elimination rounds at the NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem. The event at was held at the Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. Amazingly this was Rini’s first racing accident, an amazing streak of luck considering Rini has been racing professionally for over a decade. The accident left him hospitalized with multiple broken ribs, a bruised lung, and a severely bruised knee. The extent of his injuries have left Rini sidelined, unable to compete for 6 months. Rini is healed now, ready to make his return to competition. The location for Rini’s return? You guessed it, Bradenton Motorsports Park.
“The racing accident, I really don’t have any memory of the what happened. I don’t have any reservations about racing there because I have categorized this as just another race.” Rini told Bobby Bennett in a recent interview.
Rini may not have much of a memory of what happened to him during his crash at Bradenton. As crazy as it sounds that was not the most famous crash he was a part of. You see Rini was a passenger on US Air Flight 1549. Yes, the very same plane that wend down in the Hudson Captained by Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger. Chris Rini due to a concern with the weather had moved his departure up ended up being one of the 155 passengers who’s lives were saved by Sullenberger’s heroic flying.
“I was five or six rows behind the engine when it exploded. It didn’t just stop running… it went kaboom as it exploded and shook the whole airplane. It flamed up, and I was sitting in the middle seat. The guy on the window told me not to panic because the fire had gone out.”
“I saw just a little panic in the crew people, but they were quiet.Inside, the plane got a little loud, and they (flight crew) told us to calm down and to tighten our belts as tight as possible. Then they told us the deal to put your head between your legs… the kiss your ass goodbye deal. I really thought they were just overreacting. I’ve been on so many planes, and you rarely listen to that safety information.”
It wasn’t until the plane’s cabin filled with smoke that the severity of the situation dawned on Rini.
“I started to get concerned at that point. We were dropping lower and lower in altitude. We were lower than some of the buildings and the George Washington Bridge looked so close that you could reach out and touch it.”
“Sully had his hands full, and he did a phenomenal job. But when he said for us to prepare for impact in a monotone, I said to myself, ‘No way.’”
“I thought we were going to flip end over end. I figured we were going to turn sideways, and then we might flip too. The pilot did an excellent job.”
“There was no screaming or anything, and it stayed quiet until the plane started taking on water, which was almost instantly, and then that’s when the chaos started,” he said. “People were screaming to get out while others were climbing over the seats.”
Rini was seated in row 21B of the 32-row Airbus 320, the rear section of the plane. The area that took on the most water the quickest.
“We couldn’t get the back emergency doors open. We had a pile of people trying to get out the back, and those by the door started screaming for us to go the other way. I thought to myself that I had survived the crash and now I was going to drown. The landing was ugly, but the getting out was worse.”
Rini and others got out of the plane and onto the wing. Only to realize this too was sinking. In the chaos of the evacuation Rini had forgotten a life jacket.
“There were already 30 people on the left side where I was and it was 10 inches underwater at that point. I began wondering why I wanted to stand there when I was going to eventually end up treading water. The water was below freezing. Everyone had calmed down at that point. That’s when the reality of the cold set it. It was really freaking cold. I had already gotten wet sliding off the plane to get onto the raft. I was wet up to my hips.”
Eventually Rini and the other passengers were rescued. The crash became front page news and Sully was a national icon. The events of that day and it’s impact on its hero have been immortalized in the film “Sully”. Rini has seen the film.
“It was pretty good, had some Hollywood in there, mixed in with factual stuff. It is what it is; the movie rekindled some memories. I hadn’t really thought about it a whole lot since it happened. I wanted to see the movie, even though I knew it would rekindle some memories. I guess that day and moment will always be a part of my life.”
If Rini can see the film interpretation of what has to be one of the most harrowing days of his life, getting back in a race car should be no big deal. Even if it occurs at the scene of his only accident.