East Rowan grad killed in crash was 3 weeks from wedding

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
One week ago, Tiffany Windsor was sporting her new engagement ring and packing her things for a trip to the Grand Canyon with her new fiance, Ben Basinger.
On Thursday, she was still wearing her engagement ring, but she had cuts along her hands, marking the tragic car accident that claimed Basinger’s life.
Basinger, a 2001 graduate of East Rowan High School, was an F-16 crew chief for the Air Force. He was stationed in Phoenix, Ariz.
Windsor said she met the 28-year-old at their apartment complex in Phoenix when he was moving in, but it took months for them to start dating.
Windsor, who is a diesel mechanic in the Air Force, said the pair were on their way to the Grand Canyon for a short vacation before the big day on Sept. 24.
“Before Ben, I never believed in soulmates,” Windsor said. “But Ben opened my life to that, to God, to everything.”
But everything changed for Windsor, at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday when one of the tires of her pickup blew, sending the vehicle into the ditch. Windsor said Basinger was driving and he seemed to straighten the vehicle for just a second before he hit the ditch at an angle, flipping the truck.
Windsor said she remembered being helped out of the vehicle by a bystander, but emergency personnel wouldn’t allow her near the vehicle after the crash.
“I just kept begging God not to take him, to let me have him,” she said.
Windsor said the truck rolled several times, but Basinger was killed after the first flip. Windsor was taken to the hospital, but she was released after treatment for minor injuries.
“They took me to Flagstaff Medical Center,” she said. “They took him farther north. I don’t know where.”
Windsor said even now, when she wakes up, it’s like she’s reliving the tragedy.
“I completely forgot,” she said. “It was like it happened all over again.”
Windsor is staying with Basinger’s parents in Salisbury. The visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at Powles Funeral Home.
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Inside the Basingers’ home, three poster boards are covered in photos featuring Ben Basinger. The boards are separated into his three passions: his family, the Air Force and racing.
Basinger started racing go-karts when he was 8 at Woodleaf Speedway.
Family members rebuilt his first go-kart and will drive it around the track at Woodleaf Speedway on Monday, spreading his ashes along the dirt.
Basinger’s mother, Leslie, said they were following Ben’s wishes.
“He wanted to be cremated and wanted his ashes dumped on a race track,” she said. “We’re going to bury half of the ashes and spread the other half around the track at Woodleaf.”
In 2000, Ben Basinger began racing 360 cubic inch engine winged Sprint cars. According to Leslie Basinger, Ben was the first driver to round the dirt track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2000.
Basinger was named the United Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year in 2001.
But in 2005, he quit racing when his first child was born. Basinger leaves behind a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
The children stay with the Basingers, who live off St. Paul Church Road. Leslie Basinger marveled Thursday at how much they look like her son.
Leslie said her son had a three-hour webcam session every week with the family from Phoenix. Leslie said Ben sent both of the children to private schools and talked to them as much as possible.
Leslie spoke to her son Saturday morning before the accident. She said they had to cut it short because he was about to leave for the Grand Canyon.
She said she hasn’t slept much since her husband, Chris, told her Saturday about the accident.
“I sleep about two hours a night,” Leslie said. “I just can’t believe it. It’s been a nightmare ever since.”
Leslie said she invited Windsor to stay with the family as long as she wants, while they tend to funeral affairs.
“She wanted to be here with us and we wanted her to be here with us,” Leslie said.
The passion for racing never left Ben after he stopped in 2005, Leslie said, and he raced again at Woodleaf just a year ago.
Leslie said the entire family went out to watch.
“He wanted to keep his hand in it,” she said. “He wanted to eventually race again some day.”
And for the Basingers, Monday’s lap around Woodleaf Speedway, where they once cheered their young boy to victory, will be Ben’s final homecoming.