"Mask" (center) with his two friends "Skyskrape" (left) and "Punkass" (right)
The co-founder of TapouT apparel company Charles Lewis, know to his fans simply as "Mask," was killed early Wednesday morning in a violent car crash. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the accident occurred at approximately 12:57 a.m. in Newport Beach, CA when Lewis' Ferrari struck a Porsche traveling at a high rate of speed. Lewis' vehicle then slammed into a light post, tearing the sports car in half. Lynn Marie Nabozny, Lewis's passenger, was ejected from the vehicle and remains in critical condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. The driver of the Porsche was arrested for fleeing the scene and is being held under suspicion of drunk driving charges. It appears as though the two were racing.
"Mask" launched his clothing company in 1997 with the help of his friend Dan "Punkass" Caldwell. The two set off with modest beginnings, driving to various mixed martial arts events and selling their original tee-shirts from the trunks of their cars. The unique look of their shirts, and personal mystique, was quickly embraced by the mixed martial arts community and the name TapouT became synonymous with MMA. Through continued hard work, the company grew exponentially into the multi-million dollar business it is today, becoming the premier brand in MMA apparel.
Lewis's contributions didn't stop there. He played an important role in the production of Spike TV's hit reality series The Ultimate Fighter. TapouT was named exclusive supplier of apparel on the show and in the upcoming ninth season, all the uniforms to be worn by the fighters were designed by Lewis. His artwork has also been featured throughout the series on the walls of the TUF house, as he has created many of the designs that appear in the house.
The TapouT crew has long been known for their advocacy of fighter's rights and has led the movement to grant mixed martial artists fair and lucrative sponsorships. Without their efforts, many deserving fighters might still be struggling to make ends meet.
TapouT's website issued the following statement:
It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we must regretfully confirm the passing of our beloved friend, brother and co-founder Charles "Mask" Lewis following a car accident that occurred last night. We are currently in the process of setting up a memorial service in his honor and will release more details as they become available.
Many thanks to all for the outpouring of blessings and well-wishes during this incredibly difficult time.
Known for their take-no-crap attitude, Lewis and the rest of the TapouT crew became beloved celebrities within the MMA world. He will be sorely missed.
Source: LA Times
Photo Source: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images