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Motorcycling & the Unknown Hero.

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' at netrider.net.au started by chicken78, Mar 25, 2012.

  1. Found this recently and thought it was worth a share;

    "Stories, I love them, I am completely fascinated by them. Motorbikes, I love them, I am completely fascinated by them also. Peoples experiences, high tales of adventure, defying odds, defying death and even defying the law. Everywhere I have travelled in the last 17 years I have collected tales, stories, urban myths and personal experiences from such a wide variety of characters.

    The old saying “Its the quiet ones you need to watch” Thats me, not one to be the outgoing character in the group but the one who sits and quietly chats with those around me, absorbing, imagining, peeling off layers of lives to discover what makes people tick, what brings that special glint in their eyes, their take on life and all its glory. Outback pubs, athletes, politicians, the mailman, the overseas backpacker, the rodeo rider, the scooterist, sports bike rider, the tourer and the rough and ready OMC biker.

    Motorcycling has always held a place in my heart for as long as I can remember, its a path for us to disconnect from a material world where we can so often find ourselves engineered and fabricated to comply with society and its expectations.

    When we are freed from the every day confines and demands of the office, the car, our homes we are thrust into a broader existence of living where every human sense is teased and touched in a way only a motorcyclist will understand. Your nose will get a vivid introduction to the smell of roadkill and exhaust fumes but then revel in the smell and taste of bakeries, breweries and natures changing seasons.

    Your body will feel the impact of thousands of tiny raindrops peppering your face as you absorb and move with buffeting winds. You will feel the warming temperatures as you climb the mountain on a summers day and feel the chill and crisp air as you descend into the valley below. You will feel the bond deep down at the end of a days riding where the unspoken glance from a fellow rider is completely understood and yet you will struggle to find the words to explain and define to anyone else.

    To often, riders are touted as rebels, hoons, anti social troublesome law breaking social outcasts, the minority, the non conformist, the anarchist. Driven by narrow minded beige volvo driving cotton wrapped fairies from their keyboard, safety featured metal cages and total commitment to comply with societal demands and socially engineered expectations.

    Motorcyclists are the last frontier for governments, authorities and law makers to conquer and beat into line. To quote “To a rider the bike is everything. It's an extension of the body, an expression of the last shred of rebelliousness still possible within the confined pigeonhole of suburban reality.”

    So when a motorcycling related story hits the press its usually in bad light? Not this one, inspirational, self less and determined. A true hero..above all a motorcyclist..” Pierlucio Tinazzi” Heard the name? Hes not a GP rider, or famous actor riding around the world or serial law breaker...Ill let you read on..

    “The Mont Blanc tunnel runs for 7-1/4 miles under the highest mountains in Europe, passing under the Alps to connect France and Italy’s highway systems. Opened in 1965, it currently handles about 1.7 million vehicles a year, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. On an average day it sees 4,778 vehicles, including 3131 cars & motorcycles, 1602 trucks and 44 buses. It’s the shortest route between northern and south-eastern Europe…
    On March 24th, 1999, a truck loaded with butter and flour caught fire just past the half-way mark, about 3-3/4 miles into the tunnel (750 meters into the “Italian” section). The blaze reached 1830 degrees Fahrenheit and burned for over two days. Of the 50 people trapped in the tunnel when the blaze started, only 12 survived. All 12 of them were saved by an Italian motorcyclist…
    This is the story of Pierlucio Tinazzi.
    Pierlucio was a quiet, unassuming guy living a pretty boring life. Loved to garden & to ride. He didn’t have a large contingent of friends. After his mother had a stroke and couldn’t run her little restaurant where he had worked any more, he had scored a “security” job at the Italian facility for the Mont Blanc tunnel — basically riding back and forth through the tunnel on his motorcycle to keep traffic flowing, dispatching tow-trucks and providing motorist assistance as needed. For this remote area of northern Italy, this was a pretty good paying job, but Pierlucio had turned down a promotion to work the control booth at the main Italian office because he preferred to ride over sitting in the office…
    Pierlucio may have been like someone you know. Just another guy living his life in relative obscurity, nothing special going on. His wife had just up and left him a few years earlier and he had been in the dumps for a couple years. When the husband of a co-worker at the Italian facility broke his leg motorcycling, he started giving the coworker rides to the hospital after work every day (she didn’t have a driver’s license), and the three of them became firm friends, with the husband and him riding together once the leg finished mending. That was pretty much his inner circle of friends. Kinda sad…
    Wednesday, the 24th of March, 1999…
At 10:42 AM a Belgium truck (Volvo FH12 cab towing a refrigerated trailer) was passed through the French toll booth. Nothing special, carrying nine tons of margarine and twelve tons of flour. As the driver went into the tunnel, he made his way along. After a couple miles, he realized something was wrong as cars coming in the opposite direction kept flashing their headlights at him; a glance in his mirrors showed white smoke coming out from under his cab. Normally this was no big deal, as there had been 16 other truck fires in the tunnel over the last 35 years, always extinguished on the spot by the drivers. Today wasn’t going to be that day.
    At 10:53 AM the truck driver pulled over around the mid-point and climbed down in a cloud of dense white smoke. As he reached under his seat for his fire extinguisher (there were also extinguishers on the walls of the tunnel every few hundred feet), flames erupted from under the truck and he jumped back empty-handed. At this point, the smoke turned black…
    At 10:55 AM, the tunnel employees triggered the fire alarm and stopped any further traffic from entering. At this point the tunnel was populated by at least 10 cars/vans and 18 trucks that had entered from the French side. A few vehicles from the Italian side passed the volvo without stopping. Some of the cars from the French side managed to turn around in the narrow 2-lane tunnel, to retreat back to France, but negotiating the road in the dense smoke that had rapidly filled the tunnel made negotiating traffic pretty much impossible. The other trucks didn’t have the space to turn around, and reversing out wasn’t an option. Most people rolled up their windows and sat tight, expecting the problem to be resolved shortly… after all, nothing serious had ever happened here before.
    Within minutes, two fire trucks from the French town of Chamonix responded. The fire melted the wiring and plunged the tunnel into darkness; in the smoke and with the abandoned, wrecked vehicles blocking their path, the large fire-trucks were unable to proceed. The fire crews instead abandoned their vehicles and took refuge in two of the emergency fire cubicles (fire-door sealed small rooms set into the walls every 500 meters or so). As they huddled behind the fire doors, they could hear the burning fuel roll down the road surface, causing tires to pop and gas tanks to explode. They were rescued five hours later by a third fire crew that responded and reached them via a ventilation duct; of the the 15 firefighters that had been trapped, 14 were in serious condition and one (their commanding officer) died in the hospital.
    Pierlucio had cleared the tunnel to the French side about 10 minutes earlier, had been taking a break, and was getting ready to make a run back through when the fire alarms went off. He had a two-way comm system in his helmet that kept him in contact with the Italian tunnel office. As soon as the word came, he grabbed breathing equipment and drove his BMW K75 back into the tunnel. As he came across people trying to get out, he stopped and told them to drop to their knees, stick against the wall (where the fresh air ducts fed up) and keep moving, stopping only to breath at the ducts. He rode on into the hell that was the tunnel fire, through the smoke.
Most of the truckers close to the fire suffocated or were poisoned by the gases within minutes. Pierlucio peered among the dead and found the occasional surviver. He’d put them on the back of the bike and slalom back out the French side as fast as possible, bringing out victim after victim, then going back for the next one. On Pierlucio’s fifth trip into the tunnel, he came across Maurice Lebras, a French truck driver who was unconscious but still alive. Too big and unwieldy to get onto the back of the bike unconscious, Pierlucio refused to abandon him. Instead he wrestled Maurice into fire niche 20 and closed the door.
    The original fire doors were rated to survive for two hours. Some had been upgraded in the 34 years since the tunnel was built to survive for four hours, but niche 20 wasn’t one of them. Not that it mattered, the fire would burn for over fifty hours and it would be over five days before the tunnel cooled sufficiently for anyone to go back in. Pierlucio’s BMW melted right into the pavement a few yards from niche 20.
    This fire raged out of control for over two days. The fire was so hot that the rock that forms the interior of the mountain was permanently changed in chemical form. To say it was hellish would be a gross understatement.
    27 people died in their vehicles. 10 died trying to escape on foot. Of the initial 50 people trapped by the fire, only 1 dozen survived. Every one of the dozen said exactly the same thing: “That guy on the motorcycle saved my life.”
    It took two years to repair the damages fully and upgrade the tunnel’s facilities. It reopened to car traffic on the 9th of March, 2002. These days the tunnel employs a permanent staff of 65 firefighters (about 20 are on duty at any instant).
    On the anniversary of Pierlucio Tinazzi’s incredible heroism and tragic death, all bikers around the world are asked to carry a flower in remembrance if they ride that day… To remember the bravest biker hero you probably have never heard of before.”

    • Like Like x 15
  2. Wow, what an amazing story about an amazing person.
  3. There you go...a quite achiever, not on anyone's radar, but who did that one simple act that made all the difference for those lucky few, and their decendants.
    He deserves a plaque on the tunnel's entrance.
  4. And a statue.

  5. What an amazing tale! Love reading about unsung heroes!! Thanks for sharing!
  6. Surely there is a movie in this great story to be made about Pierlucio Tinazzi. Not some cheesy hollywood arnie/stallone movie but a "real" good story.
    But who could play his part and do it justice?