PETERBOROUGH, Ont. -- Daredevil stunt driver Ken Carter died Sunday of massive injuries sustained when his rocket-driven car flew almost 100 feet past a landing ramp and crashed in a midnight attempt to break his own world record.
Carter, 45, of Montreal, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Peterborough Civic Hospital. Authorities said he had suffered massive head, chest and other internal injuries.
'We are not sure what happened but we believe the car was overpowered and the rocket on his car failed to shut off at the proper time,' said Harry Shermet, assistant manager of Westgate Speedway, where Carter was trying to break his own world record of 186 feet for a ramp-to-ramp jump.
'He went almost 100 feet past the ramp where he was supposed to touch down, the car flipped over and just fell out of the sky from about 75 feet up. The roof was totally flattened and the roll cage was crushed,' said Shermet, who was the first person to reach Carter after the crash.
About 2,500 people watched from the grandstands as police and speedway officials worked frantically to pry Carter from the wreckage of his car.
'He went a total of 295 feet. The distance he had planned for was about 200 feet. When I reached him, he was not brething,' said Shermet. 'He had no visible injuries but clearly it was bad. We needed about 10 to 15 minutes to get him out.
'He was supposed to reach a speed of 72 miles per hour and the rocket motor was supposed to shut off at the bottom of the ramp,' said Shermet. 'But, in fact, it kept propelling the car farther than it was supposed to.'
Shermet said the car had been impounded by police and would be inspected.
Ontario Provincial Police Const. Joseph Dorricott said they had not yet established the speed Carter reached during his fatal jump in a 1982 Pontiac, equipped with with what he described as a 'homemade rocket.'
'He shot off a ramp, and hit it airborne about 30 feet above the pond, when he began to flip over,' Dorricott said. 'He overshot the pond and landed inverted on the field.'
Shermet said Carter had been trying to set a world record for a rocket-powered car over a 200-foot span across a man-made pond at the speedway, on the outskirts of Peterborough.
'Just before the jump he appeared relaxed and pleased,' Shermet said.'He was thanking all of us for the nice job we did in preparing the ramps for him. He said 'everything is fine, I'me ready to go'.'
The car also had an internal 'roll cage', which Carter had used in the past as a safety measure in case his car rolled, but Shermet said the bar was not made to withstand the impact of falling upside down from so great a height.
Carter, whose next planned jump was to be across part of the 2,200-foot breadth of the Niagara Gorge, had failed in an earlier attempt to jump the pond on the July 1 weekend, when a startoff ramp collapsed and sent him tumbling into the water. He was rescued by crewmen.
Carter has been piloting rocket powered cars for 27 years. His previous stunts included jumping a house at Lancaster Speedway in New York last year. The Montreal native had once planned a much-publicized bid to jump the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall, Ont., into the United States as a tribute to the American bicentennial year of 1976.
The bid was called off, apparently because he was unable to receive landing approval on the U.S. side. In recent years, the stuntman had led the Ken Carter Daredevils, who participated in a variety of events around the U.S., including demolition derbies.
Dorricott said Carter's son, Peter, was scheduled to arrive from Montreal later in the day to make funeral arrangements.