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Driver Of “Rescue Ship” Found Dead

January 25, 1985 GMT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ Willie Perry, who drove the streets of Birmingham in his ″Rescue Ship″ helping motorists in distress, has been found dead near his beloved automobile.

Perry, 44, was discovered Thursday lying in his garage beside his fluorescent-lighted car, a 1971 Thunderbird equipped with flashing yellow and red lights, a stereo, television, refrigerator, running water and a telephone.

Police said Perry may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning and that foul play is not suspected.

Perry and his car, known as the Batmobile, had been featured on national television, and his willingness to help stranded motorists and people too intoxicated to drive made him a legend in Birmingham.

He had worked in the garage where his body was found since he was a teen- ager, crafting cast-iron furniture, windows and doors.

″If his car engine was running in that little garage all night, that would expose him to a lethal dose″ of carbon monoxide, police Sgt. Paul Price said. ″Probably the engine was running because he was cold.″

Perry was wearing a belt with rescue accessories and two beepers and a plastic badge with the words ‴That’s Incredible’ Star,″ a reference to his 1982 appearance on the program ″That’s Incredible.″

In one of his last acts of kindness, he helped four University of Tennessee students stranded by snow Saturday night. He found a room for them at a motel and when the students could muster only $7, he paid the other $30 for the room.

Mayor Richard Arrington said Perry ″was a special blessing to the city of Birmingham. He was one of the few people who disregarded himself completely in the name of others.″