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A spectator was killed by flying debris on Sunday at the Firebird International Raceway during the February 21, 2010 Arizona Nationals event. A tire flew off the dragster of driver Antron Brown and struck a female spectator.

The woman, 52-year-old Susan Zimmer of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, was transported by helicopter to Good Samaritan Medical Center, where she later dead, according to an NHRA statement. She was a receptionist and chair assistant at a dental office and had been visiting her son and friends in Arizona at the time of her death. Her husband, Jim Zimmer, a Rice Lake firefighter, died of cancer in February 2008.

Susan’s employer of 12 years, Dr. David Wilson said, “She was a good friend and co-worker to all of us here. She was a lot of fun and had high energy. We miss her a lot. We’re still in shock. I feel bad for her family and I feel bad for us.”

Brown’s 8,000-horsepower dragster appeared to lose power from a cylinder after accelerating at the starting line in a first-round race against Troy Buff. The left-rear wheel and tire came off, and the car flipped onto its right side. The vehicle slid across the track, hit the fence and continued to climb the left-lane retaining wall. There was a flash of flame from spilled fuel as the car came to a stop.

Brown was check out by NHRA Safety Safari personnel and then returned to his pit area with tears welling up in his eyes. He said, “I felt like the back end just dropped out and the car started pitching end over end. At that point, I was upside-down, and in my mind, things were going crazy. I was just hoping I didn’t go into Troy or into the other lane. The next thing I knew, I hit the wall. I saw a little burst of flame come around my head, and I saw sparks.”

The dragster was brought back to the pit area and immediately covered with a black tarp. NHRA is investigating the incident.

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