George Hurst, 59, Inventor of the ‘Jaws of Life,’ Found Dead

George Hurst, an inventor who developed a tool to pluck drivers from their wrecked race cars, which was later adapted as the “jaws of life” rescue device widely used by police and firefighters, has been found dead in the garage of his Redlands town house.

Redlands Police Capt. Lewis Nelson said Hurst’s body was found Tuesday.

David Hammock, deputy coroner inspector for San Bernardino County, said no cause of death could be determined pending completion of toxicological tests. He said his office was investigating the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, adding that there was no evidence indicating suicide.

Hurst was 59 and had no known health problems, a family spokesman said.


He was the founder of the Hurst Performance Product Co. and was associated with high-performance vehicles and automotive advances, particularly in the area of car transmissions. His Hurst Shifter, a floor-mounted gear shift for performance cars, made him a wealthy man.

The company has since been sold several times, said Chuck Lamerel of American Bristol Co., seller of the jaws of life. The jaws of life tool was originally developed by Hurst in the 1960s to rescue drivers in crashes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then adopted by rescue agencies throughout the country, Lamerel said.

Billy Closson, a friend and owner of Custom Engineering Inc. of Redlands, said Hurst had been working most recently on a cable winding device for use in towing. “There is no reason at all to think he was despondent,” Closson said. “He had everything in the world going for him.”