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Kentlake grad Kayleigh Perkins swims to shore after hydroplane UL-72 Miss Foster Care catches fire and explodes
Kentlake graduate Kayleigh Perkins' unlimited light hydroplane UL-72 Miss Foster Care caught fire and exploded today during testing trials on Lake Washington at the Stan Sayres Memorial Pits. Perkins was not injured, but had to jump out of the burning hydroplane and swim to shore.
"I am all right," the 22-year-old Perkins said by phone at 12:15 p.m. shortly after the fire and explosion. "I was very lucky. It exploded and blew off the decks. It didn't get to the motor."
She said she jumped out and swam to safety. Her husband, James Mallory, and others jumped in and pulled her to shore.
Perkins said she was not sure what happened. After a test run she came in and "everything seemed fine."
She said the motor suddenly stuttered and stopped. Her husband then called her on the radio and she saw the fire in her side mirrors.
"I heard him say, 'fire, fire,'" Perkins said. "But I couldn't get the fire extinguisher open and out of my seat belt fast enough. The gas tank exploded and I had to go for a swim."
She said the team suspects a fuel tank leak may have been the problem, but, the exact cause is yet to be determined.
Perkins and older brother Brian, who races in the unlimited hydroplane class full time, grew up at the races.
Their parents began volunteering at Seafair as teenagers and over the years they brought their children with them.
Kayleigh Perkins was two months old when she attended her first race.
"My brother and I would sleep through the Blue Angels air show, but, as soon as the unlimited hydroplanes would start, we would wake right up," she told the Reporter last summer.
Brian Perkins began racing seriously as a teenager and worked his way up through ranks.
He encouraged his sister to try racing out and she started in a four cylinder boat at the age of 16.
Kayleigh Perkins has had a quick ascension through the ranks. In 2007 she was named the Unlimited Light Hydroplanes rookie of the year and was driver national champion the same year.
Last summer she was fourth on the wins list in the Unlimited Light Hydroplane class with 10 victories including a win in the Atomic Cup in Kennewick last July and at Seafair in 2009.
Perkins graduated from Kentlake in 2006.