Indycar crash kills Dan Wheldon
Dan Wheldon, winner of the Indianapolis 500, died at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Wheldon’s car got stuck in a blazing pileup of 15 cars, then flew over one more vehicle and managed to land in a catch fence just outside turn 2.
The two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 was 33 years old.
In addition to Wheldon, at least three more drivers, one of which was Will Power, a contender for the championship, were also hurt in the Lap 11 car pileup.
Wheldon was brought from the track by airlift to the University Medical Center. Two hours after his transfer, his death was announced, described by IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard as being caused by “unsurvivable” injuries.
Dario Franchitti could not seem to believe the turn of events. His wife Ashley Judd was seen bringing him a box of tissues, as he said, “One minute you’re joking around… the next, Dan’s gone.”
He described Wheldon as considered by everyone in the IndyCar series as a good friend. He added that he was always a “charmer.”
The race was cancelled in tribute of Wheldon, one of the sport’s biggest stars, and the drivers went into a five-lap salute going around the oval. Many of them were seen sobbing openly.
The race had only gone on for a few minutes when Wheldon, who began towards the back of the 34-car pack and was in place for a $5-million payday for a victory, was not able to get out of the way of a wreck caused by two cars whose tires touched.
In a matter of seconds, a few cars became a fiery inferno, and debris quickly trashed the track almost halfway up the straightway. In fact, some parts of the impact were too big that workers needed to patch up the holes in the asphalt track.
Replays of video recordings showed Wheldon’s car going airborne and turning over, then sailing into the catch fence. The catch fence is set on a barrier that is meant to give way when cars come into contact with it.
Rescue workers quickly made their way to Wheldon’s car, some of them frantically waving for more assistance to the location.
James Hinchcliffe, a rookie driver from Toronto, told ABC that he could not even begin to describe the scene that took place after the caution flag was waved. “It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before in my life.”
Ryan Briscoe agreed that he had never seen a scene like it. He described the debris as looking like a “war scene from Terminator.” There were reportedly car pieces and metal fragments, on fire, right in the middle of the track. “It was scary,” he added, and said that his first thoughts were that he hoped nobody was hurt.
Wheldon had come to the U.S. from England back in 1999 and had won 16 times in his career in the IndyCar. He was also the series champion of 2005.