Over the years, multiple spectators have sustained serious and even fatal injuries at the Indianapolis 500 and other racing events, raising questions about who is responsible for them. While spectator injuries are rare, they do occur, with one recent incident at the Williams Grove Speedway making headlines.
Determining Responsibility in a Recent Spectator Death
On August 2, 2019, spectator Richard Speck was fatally injured in an accident at the Williams Grove Speedway during the Indianapolis 500. The accident involved a sprint car flipping over the infield fence and hitting the victim. Speck was more than a spectator, playing a role in starting the cars as a volunteer “push car” operator.
After he started the cars for the 2019 race, Speck moved to the center of the speedway with other push car operators, which was normally where they sat and watched as the race took place. As one of the vehicles made its fourth turn around the track, the driver lost control. The vehicle hit the inner guard rail of the track and cartwheeled through the air, eventually landing on Speck and his truck. Speck died instantly while the driver, Robbie Kendall, remained unharmed.
The tragic sprint car accident left some wondering whether it was preventable. Sprint car racing is inherently dangerous, which makes it hard to anticipate a serious accident that could result in devastating injuries. However, some individuals, such as former NASCAR driver Randy LaJoie, observed that the fencing was arguably insufficient, stating that the company should have utilized a catch fence design with additional height and durability.
Making Speedways Safer for Spectators and Racers
Some industry experts hope that Speck’s accident was a wake-up call that might lead to changes that would make speedways safer for both drivers and spectators. Speck’s death was far from the first serious incident to take place at a raceway, with several accidents taking place over the course of the last decade alone.
While generally rare, accidents do take place at speedways, and racers along with others are hoping that certain safety measures such as proper fencing could offer more protection. In some cases, injury victims have filed personal injury lawsuits against the speedways and received compensation, but some accidents such as the one that killed Speck make liability less clear.
Over time, more safety measures may be implemented to prevent foreseeable accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and other future racing events.