Martin Reidy, 35 and a native of Clare, and Peter Smith, 27 and from Cavan, both died after being struck by a car that veered off the race course.
The victims were both members of the Irish Motor Club of New York and had themselves competed in rallies around the U.S.
Both men would probably have been competing in the rally but for the fact that they were in the process of changing their cars, said Noel Nash, a member of the IMC and a friend of both of the deceased.
The tragedy occurred at about 4 p.m. Saturday on a stretch of the rally course outside the town of Morris, which is roughly 90 miles northeast of Wilkes-Barre.
Both men were married and Reidy was the father of two children. They were pronounced dead at the scene by the Lycoming County Coroner. The race was immediately halted.
Reidy and Smith were watching the race on a straight stretch of the course that covered both public highway and rural off-road sections.
According to Nash, the car, driven by 35-year-old Peter Malaszuk from Bridgeport, Conn., drove over a small hill at the beginning of the straightaway.
“The car [a Subaru WRX] hit the gravel track and must have been facing left when it landed. It picked up traction immediately and instead of driving straight down the stretch it veered to the left and straight to where Martin and Peter were standing,” Nash said.
“It wasn’t on a dangerous bend or an intersection. It’s really rare that something like this happens on a straight stretch.”
Malaszuk did not suffer serious injury and will not face charges, according to a report in the Westchester-based Journal News.
Nash said that on another Saturday both Reidy and Smith might have been driving their cars.
“Peter was about to buy a new car and Martin was raffling off his car, so he didn’t want to drive. He wanted to keep his car in top condition for the raffle,” Nash said.
The death of the two men took place during an event called the Ski Sawmill Club Rally, sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America.
Such events are hugely popular with Irish rally enthusiasts in the tri-state area.
Twenty-nine of the 60 cars in Saturday’s rally had Irish drivers and there were about 150 club members and relatives attending the race, according to Nash.
One of the spectators was Smith’s wife, Fiona.
The Irish Motor Club was founded a couple of years ago and members travel around the country to attend rallies. Drivers and family members recently attended a race in South Carolina.
The Ski Sawmill event is 54 miles long and is made up of eight stages held on closed off sections of local road. The cars are regular saloon vehicles adapted to rallying demands.
Each driver races individually against a clock. Parts of the course merge with public highways and along these stretches the competitors must obey normal driving rules.
Martin Reidy was from Clarecastle, Co. Clare, and had lived in the U.S. for about 17 years, according to Nash, who is also from Clare.
Smith came to the U.S. about seven or eight years ago from Mullahorn in County Cavan. He married Fiona Concannon just under a year ago. Her family owns Morley’s delicatessen in Yonkers.
Reidy’s wife, Bernadette, was not attending the rally. In addition to his wife, Reidy is survived by two children, daughter Shannon, who is 11, and a 16-month-old son, Danny.
Reidy’s wake will take place today, Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. at 7-9 p.m. at Hodder and Son Funeral Home at 899 McLean Ave. His funeral is being held on Thursday at St. John the Baptist Church, 670 Yonkers Ave.
A funeral Mass for Smith will take place Thursday, May 15, at 11 a.m. at St. John the Baptist. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne.
The family will be present on Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the Ruggiero funeral home, 732 Yonkers Ave.
The Smith family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to the American Cancer Society, 2 Lyon Place, White Plains, N.Y. 10601 or to Rosary Hill Home, 600 Linda Ave., Hawthorne, N.Y. 10532.