Below is one of the very last photos (1 of 3) that I shot of my good friend Jose, approximately five minutes before he lost his life in a horrific accident this past Saturday evening, October 7, 2006. The time stamp on the image was 16:46:38 (4:46:38); however, my camera clock was five minutes fast; therefore, the actual time was 4:41:38 PM. My cell phone call log indicates that I dialed 9-1-1 at 4:47:03 PM CDT.
Jose was a friend of a little over ten years, first meeting in the New Orleans Delta Region SCCA Chapter. We would later serve on the Board of Directors; he the Regional Executive, I the Editor. He ran in BP in a Corvette, I in CSP in an RX7. He would later run in SS in a Viper, then Z06, then most recently in his new 2006 Viper GTS coupe. He was extremely generous and had a great sense of humor.
We met up with Jose at the road races Saturday afternoon at our local track, No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, Louisiana - about an hour southwest of New Orleans. We were on our way home when we caught up with Jose traveling on La 3127, a relatively smooth, two-lane black-top road on a clear blue, early fall evening, the sun lowering in the sky behind us. I shot three frames, and then we passed him by to settle in for the ride home. He waved at Shawn (my 18 yr old son) and me and gave a big smile and we cruised on with him and another friend in tow.
A few minutes later Jose came around us on the left in the northbound lane, heading south and continued in that lane, not moving back into our lane after passing us. There were no other cars in front of us. He had cleared us by at least two hundred yards when I first saw the oncoming vehicle in the north bound lane; the same lane Jose was traveling south in. We kept waiting for him to move back into our lane, but he didn't – we’ll never know why. I began slowing and moving to the shoulder to allow all the room possible for what I feared was about to happen. At the last possible moment, with maybe 100 - 200 feet between the rapidly closing vehicles, they both moved in the opposite directions - each to their respective right, with Jose coming across our lane, leaving the road onto the grass becoming airborne over a ditch, cart wheeling at least once, shedding two corners of the suspension and all of the Viper's body panels and glass and coming to rest on its roof. And he was gone. The other vehicle continued on down the road, thankfully, undamaged, although I'm sure, its occupants shaken.
Between Shawn and me we have taken hundreds of photos of Jose over the past ten years at various autocross events and club gatherings. We had been talking as recently as this past Friday night (my 47th birthday) about getting together to shoot his new car, if we could only find the time. Even when we met up at the track his car was so dusty from driving down the shell access road to where we were shooting in Turn 1 that I didn’t bother taking any photos. If I had only known things were going to turn out this way, huh? Strangely enough, my Yugoslavian friend Coco told Shawn and I no less than five times Saturday, in his best broken English, “Man, don’t stress out over money and work and all that stuff. Life is too short. We are only here for a few minutes.” I just laughed and told him, “If I had your money I would worry a lot less.” When Coco returned to the accident scene later that evening I couldn’t help but think how prophetic his words now seemed in light of what happened later that day.
Respectfully, I ask that you do not deteriorate this thread into a “crash” topic. That is not what this is about. I wrote this to provide a story behind a photo that I shot this past weekend. Its importance being that it is the last photo of my friend…period. You never know when you are taking your last photo so make them count.
Jose was a dentist. I always called him “Doc” out of respect for his profession and what it took to get him there.
Godspeed, Doc, Godspeed.
EDIT: I revised the photo to correct a greenish color cast and the grammatical error of the text. cvb