OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The father of a 12-year-old girl who suffered severe burns while racing a sprint car at a southwest Oklahoma City track says he's grateful she survived.

Charlie White, the father of Harli White of Lindsay, the injured driver, said he doesn't blame officials at I-44 Speedway for what happened to his daughter. But he said he hopes what happened will provide the impetus for the development of higher safety standards at all tracks.

He called it "a miracle of God" that his daughter survived.

Harli, who was driving in her first race, suffered third-degree burns over half her body from the accident, which happened Saturday night. She is now at Shriners' Burn Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas, and faces numerous surgeries over the next few weeks.

"She's a tough little booger," said her aunt, Misti Southern.

Officials at the racetrack would not comment about Harli's accident. Children as young as 6 years old sometimes operate race cars at the facility.

Witnesses said 20-year-old Donnie Ray Crawford is among those responsible for helping save Harli from further injury. Crawford had been strapped into his car, waiting for another race, but saw the smoke and left his car to help pull the girl from her burning car, which had hit a wall before catching fire.

He jumped on her to try to smother the flames, which penetrated her fire suit.

"I just jumped out of my car and ran over there as fast as I could. When I got there, I'd never seen a fire like that," Crawford said.

"I thought for sure I was smothering a dead girl."

Crawford said by the time he arrived, Harli was spitting up the flame retardant that emergency crews had sprayed on the fire, but wasn't fighting the flames.

"I saw her hair," he said. "I saw she had her helmet off. I thought this was going to turn out to be horrible. It wasn't near as bad as you'd expect. It's an absolute miracle her face wasn't just completely burnt off because she had no cover, absolutely nothing fireproof on her face."

Harli's family members said she was alert and spoke to them not long after she underwent her first surgery, although doctors now are keeping her sedated to better allow her body to heal.

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