Born: December 16, 1948
Died: February 8, 1981
James Patrick Morgan was a bobsledder who competed on the 1976 U.S. Olympic bobsled team. He was killed on the last turn of the bob run in Cortina, Italy, in the 1981 world championships. He was the son of Dew Drop and Sheila Morgan.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 9, 1981
Saranac Lake driver killed in Cortina
By Associated Press and Enterprise staff
CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy - Jim Morgan, the gregarious son of Dew and Sheila Morgan who lived at 191 Broadway in Saranac Lake, was killed yesterday morning when the four man bobsled he was piloting in the world championships overturned and Jim's upper body struck a retaining wall near the end of the course.
Jim, the eldest of the 11 Morgan children, was killed instantly. He was driving the No. 1 U.S. sled in the third heat of the World four-man bobsled championship when it overturned at the last banked curve of the Olympic track.
While the others on the sled were ducking, Jim remained seated upright struggling with the out-of-control sled until the end.
News of Jim Morgan's death, which was flashed across the Atlantic Sunday morning by news wire, stunned the Adirondack village whose residents acknowledge the dangers of bobsledding but somehow felt that the athletic Morgan clan, with their renowned sports ability, would always make it down the track unscathed.
Relatives gathered at the large red home on Broadway in the morning where the porch lights blazed through the night and into this morning.
John Morgan, Dew and Sheila's next eldest child was at the Cortina track when the wreck occurred. He was announcing the race for ABC Sports. Just before the wreck John had commented that Jimmy, known locally by his peers as 'Nitro' because of his explosive driving style, would be trying to make up for a slow first half of the race on the second half of the run.
The film with John's commentary leading up to the crash was shown yesterday on ABC's Wide World of Sports as viewers realized with anguish that one brother was reporting on the death of another.
When, on the screen, it became apparent that one of the men on the sled was not moving, the film and commentary stopped.
The sled, hurtling over the course at 66 miles an hour, bumped against the icy side walls on the final stretch.
Doctors reported that Morgan suffered fractures of the neck and jaw and a severe throat cut.
At least ten other sleds overturned at the same difficult curve during the two-man and four-man world competitions over the past two weekends, but the sledders suffered nothing more than minor bruises and cuts.
"Jim was unlucky because his neck first hit the upper part of the wall as soon as the sled overturned, and then his helmet bumped repeatedly against the wall," said Mike Hollrock, an official of the U.S. bobsled team.
Doctors at the Codivilla Hospital said the Morgan probably was already dead when the sled stopped after skidding 60 yards through the finish line on its right side.
Braker Randy Bielski, of Towson, Md., said he first thought his teammate had escaped the accident unhurt.
"When I saw Jim in a pool of blood, his face and neck badly hurt, I realized he was dying. I will never forget that moment," he said.
Paul White, the insider also from Towson, Md., hurt his right elbow and right leg in the accident and said he will need a lot of lime "to forget the terrible thing that had happened."
Michail Minasjan, a Soviet team doctor, was at the scene of the accident. He gave Morgan an injection to keep his heart pumping, but the bobsledder was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
"The last curve is difficult, and you must not make any mistake," explained Luciano de Paolis, a former Italian bobsledder who became a coach of the U.S. team.
"Jim was a good, experienced driver. We all cried when we heard he was dead," De Paolis said.
Morgan, whose father and brothers formerly competed in bobsleds and luge, had resumed racing in Cervinia's world championships in 1975 after a two-year retirement.
He had been in the sport since 1967, and was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic bobsled team. He drove a two-man sled to 14th place finish and four-man sled to 15th place at Innsbruck.
"He was a nice person. He used to come into the kitchen and crack jokes with us," said Maria Teresa Solimbergo, the owner of the hotel where the U.S. team stayed.
"I didn't want to watch bobsledding on television, because I feared something might happen to them. I cried, I am still upset," she said.
The U.S. team was scheduled to leave Cortina today, bound for Venice.
"We plan to fly home Tuesday and we hope to take Jim's body with us, but it all depends on how we handle the red tape including the autopsy," said Hollrock, "We came here together, and we will leave together."
Hollrock said the team did not plan to take any action against the organizers "because we are satisfied that it was not their fault."
"Jim had said the Cortina track was the best one he had ever driven."
John Morgan, Jim's brother who was in Cortina as a television network (ABC) commentator, avoided reporters but let it be known through team members that Jim's death was part of risks of bobsledding.
He was tenth after the first two runs Saturday and was confident of improving his position.
His death overshadowed results of the championship which marked a second straight triumph by the East German team led by Bernhard Germeshausen. They won both the two and four-man events here.