Ernest E. Gahan helped to rescue Marvin E. Panch from burning, Daytona Beach, Florida, February 14, 1963. At Daytona International Speedway a racing car Panch, 36, race driver, was testing went out of control while traveling at a very high speed and struck the guardrail. It then rolled down the banked track and overturned before stopping in the grassy infield. The vehicle’s three fuel tanks behind and under the cockpit contained approximately 30 gallons of fuel. Panch, who had escaped serious injury, released his seat belt and dropped to the curved roof of the cockpit. At the side of the car where flames had broken out, he tried without success to force open the door which was slightly ajar. Gusts of flames one to two feet long appeared inside the cockpit. Gahan, 36, race driver, William R. Wimble, and then Jerry A. Raborn reached the car and together attempted unsuccessfully to lift it at the side where Panch was endeavoring to open the door. Flames issuing from beneath the car increased in size, igniting Panch’s coveralls. Other persons arrived. While Stephen E. Petrasek and the speedway steward assisted the other men in raising the side of the vehicle, DeWayne L. Lund began discharging the contents of a fire extinguisher into the cockpit through the slight opening of the door. An outburst of flames then shot upward and drove the men back, some of them sustaining burns. Flames rose five to six feet in gusts from the under- side of the car, and others burned over the entire uppermost side. Heat was intense. Noting Panch still trying to open the door, the men ran back to their former positions at the car amid the gusts of flames. The others regained their holds on the car, which was hot, while Lund sprayed foam from the extinguisher before helping to lift the car. When the men raised the side of the car 18 inches, Panch pushed the door farther open and thrust his feet outside. Lund and Petrasek then drew Panch from the car. The flames on his attire soon were extinguished, although he suffered extensive burns. The men released their holds on the car and had moved back 10 feet when an explosion completely enveloped the vehicle in flames rising as much as 15 feet above it. Firemen put out the flames with the help of others. Panch was confined to a hospital for three months. Gahan required treatment for three weeks for burns to his hands and face. Both men recovered.
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Ernest Earl Gahan, 83, died on Nov. 27, 2009 at his home in Berwick, Maine. He formerly lived in Madbury, Maine, and Durham, N.H.
Gahan was born on Oct. 12, 1926, in Wakefield, Mass., the son of Arthur M. and Helen (Turner) Gahan. He served in the Army during World War II. He built his own garage and operated Gahan’s Garage of Madbury for many years.
Gahan lived and loved racing. He built all of his own race cars in his garage in Madbury. He was an independent driver, setting records all over the East Coast during his racing days. In the 1950s, he joined the NASCAR Modified Circuit. In 1966, he received the NASCAR National Modified Championship award at Daytona Raceway. Along with others, he received the Carnegie Medal along for saving a fellow race car driver’s life. After his racing career, Gahan operated a small construction business out of his home in Berwick.
(Edited from an obituary by Fosters.com)