By Patrick Rall
Earlier this week, a bright red 2013 SRT Viper base model wearing manufacturer’s plates and driven by Chrysler engineer Martin Morse was the first new Mopar supercar to wreck on public roads. The accident occurred in Hartland Michigan, about a half hour or so north of downtown Detroit. Sadly, due to the severity of the crash, Mr. Morse was killed in the accident that was so violent that first responders had to cut away the roof of the Viper to get to the driver. This is the first time that the 2013 Viper has been crashed on public roads or outside of either a racing or crash testing scenario and as single car crashes go – this one was about as bad as it gets.
At first, there was a discussion whether a mechanical issue with the 2013 SRT Viper may have caused the accident or if perhaps the 43 year old Chrysler engineer had encountered some medical emergency while drive the Viper. However, after the Michigan State Police conducted an investigation into the accident which included eye witness accounts of the accident itself and the moments leading up to the fatal crash – it sounds like the cause of the wreck was a combination of poor road conditions and a poorly timed decision to flex the Viper’s muscles. At the time of the accident, it was raining with temperatures dipping near freezing so along with being wet; the road surface may have also been icy.
According to the Michigan State Police investigators, Mr. Morse turned the red 2013 SRT Viper from Michigan Route 59 onto US 23, at which point he came to a stop on the onramp for “several minutes”. After this long pause, the new Viper was launching hard and speeding quickly up the onramp at speeds that witnesses guesstimated as being well over 70 miles per hour. As Morse and the Viper reached the merging point of US 23, he lost control of the car – sliding across both lanes of highway traffic and down into the grassy center median. Separating the northbound and southbound lanes of US 23 is a three cable divider rather than concrete barriers and when the Viper hit that system of thick metal cables, the car sat low enough to literally sneak under the middle and upper most cable.
Unfortunately, the third cable was too low for the Viper to fit under and as the aerodynamic sports car jammed against the lowest cable, the thick braided steel cord cut through the cabin of the Viper. The Michigan State Police statement did not include an exact cause of death but the cable tearing through the cabin likely played a major role in Mr. Morse’s untimely demise. Rumors around the internet indicated that the launch control system had been activated shortly before the Viper went speeding up the onramp so it sounds like the driver was testing the acceleration of the 640 horsepower V10 when the power just became too much for the road conditions.