LAKEVILLE, Conn., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Former race car driver John Fitch, who was among the early stars of the Le Mans endurance race, has died in Connecticut, his son said. He was 95.
Stephen Fitch said his father suffered from cancer and respiratory disease and died Wednesday at his Lakeville home, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Indianapolis native was drawn to the challenging twists and turns of European race courses in the 1950s and 1960s, and made his name as a part of the Mercedes-Benz teams that included Sterling Moss and Juan Manuel Fagio.
Fitch was on the Mercedes team involved in a horrific crash into the grandstands during the 1955 24 Hours at Le Mans race. He was on the sidelines when teammate Pierre Leveigh and 80 spectators were killed.
The Times said the disaster prompted Fitch to become interested in improving the safety of racing. He went on to obtain several patents for innovations such as soft walls and sliding barriers.
Fitch, who had been a U.S. fighter pilot in World War II, said in 2003 his focus on safety was payback for a career that included "fatal events" in combat and behind the wheel.