It was a note from BangShift contributor Benoit Pigeon and the comments on a video I posted yesterday that floored me. Francois Gissy, the Frenchman who built a series of incredible rocket powered vehicles and whom I had struck up a friendship with via e-mail over the last few years had died. He had died while testing a water rocket trike that had already turned top fuel-esque acceleration numbers in testing and was about to set the world on its ear with performance. Like so many of his type, Francois did not pass away in front of a large audience or during some sort of spectacular show. No, he passed away while testing and according to officials, testing on a rarely used road without permission. There was a news crew there shooting video and the idea was apparently to tease the upcoming stuff that Francois was planning to do with this machine.
And then it all went wrong.
Whether he lost control, whether the trike failed under him, whether it was a mix of both situations we’ll never know but Gissy left the elevated roadway at a high rate of speed and died from injuries sustained from the crash. The trike was shown to be strewn over a large area and broken into multiple pieces.
Francois was so impressive to me because (1) the dude was my age, we were only a year apart in birth, and (2) the stuff he did took insane amounts of balls and ability to pull off. This was not a guy who was a cocky jerk. He was smart and savvy, and unfortunately as we all find out sooner or later, human.
A few years ago I ran a series of eBay ads from a mysterious seller that was hawking these crazy Russian rocket engines of all shapes and sizes. Well, as it turns out it was Francois selling all that stuff and that is how we started to chat via e-mail. He from Europe and me from here in the USA.
I am sorry to have run that video the other day and completely missed the news of his passing in early May. Just a few weeks ago the guy was getting ready to take the world by storm in a water rocket powered trike that could run with a top fuel car. Today that dream and Francois’ life have both ended.
We need guys like Francois in the world. We need guys like him for guys like me to look up and kind of hold in a strange wonderment. We need guys like that because guys like me will never be one.
We’re sad for Francois’s family and friends. We know that he knew and accepted the risks associated with his passion but it does not lessen the sting at all. Godspeed, rocket man.