IndyCar champion killed in fiery crash
The 33-year-old Englishman died from injuries he received after he became caught up in the horrific pileup, in which several cars were sent flying while others careered down the track in flames to litter the track with smoking debris.
“IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries,” IndyCar chief executive Randy Bernard said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today.”
Wheldon’s fellow drivers had been told of his death shortly before Bernard made his announcement.
Bernard said IndyCar drivers and owners together opted not to resume the race.
Wheldon’s fellow pilots decided to drive a five-lap salute in his honor - many of them weeping as they completed the solemn gesture with Wheldon’s number 77 the only one blazing on the scoreboard tower.
The chaos started at Turn 2 of the 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval on the 12th lap of the race.
The chain reaction appeared to begin when Wade Cunningham’s car swerved and J.R. Hildebrand clipped him. Hildebrand went airborne while Cunningham went into the wall.
“It was debris everywhere across the whole track, you could smell the smoke, you could see the billowing smoke on the back straight from the car,” said Danica Patrick, who was in her final race as a full-time IndyCar driver before heading to NASCAR stock car racing.
“There was a chunk of fire that we were driving around. You could see cars scattered,” added Patrick, who was among the drivers who had predicted a chaotic race given the high speeds in qualifying and the jam-packed 34-car field.
Wheldon, traveling behind the cars that initiated the crash, couldn’t avoid the mayhem.
“I saw two cars touch each other up in front of me and then I tried to slow down, couldn’t slow down,” Canadian Paul Tracy said. “Then Dan’s car, from what I saw in the videos, came over my back wheel and over top of me. Just a horrendous accident.”
Tracy had reported that a medical team was frantically attending Wheldon before the driver was airlifted to hospital.
The official confirmation of his death came some two hours after the race was stopped.
Despite two Indianapolis 500 triumphs - including this year’s race in May - and his 2005 title, Wheldon hadn’t been able to gain a full-time IndyCar ride this season.
He was racing from the back of the field in pursuit of a $5 million prize offered by IndyCar to a nonseries driver who could win the finale.
한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]
인디500 챔피언 웰던, 경주 중 사고로 사망
미국 자동차 경주대회 인디카 시리즈 인디 500에서 올해 우승을 차지했던 댄 웰던(영국)이 레이스 도중의 사고로 숨졌다.
웰던은 16일(현지시간) 미국 네바다주 라스베이거스의 모터스피드웨이에서 열린 인디카 시리즈 IZOD 월드챔피언십 경기에서 차량 15대가 휘말린 사고를 당한 뒤 병원으로 옮겨졌으나 사망했다고 AP통신이 보도했다.
1.5마일(약 2.4㎞)의 서킷을 200바퀴 돌아 300마일(약 483㎞)을 달리기로 돼 있던 이날 경주에서 웰던은 12번째 바퀴에서 다른 차들과 뒤엉키면서 불길에 휩싸였다.
인근 대학 병원으로 이송된 웰던은 2시간여 만에 숨을 거뒀다.
인디카 시리즈 대회 관계자는 정확한 사인을 밝히지 않은 채 `심각한 부상` 때문이라고만 발표했다.
1978년생인 웰던은 미국 최대의 자동차 경주 대회 가운데 하나인 인디 500에서 2005년과 2011년 두 차례나 정상에 올랐던 선수다.
인디카 경주에서 사망 사고가 난 것은 2006년 플로리다주 마이애미에서 열린 대회에서 폴 데이나가 연습 주행 도중 숨진 이후 5년 만이다.
유족으로는 부인 수지와 두 아들 세바스찬(2), 올해 3월 태어난 올리버가 있다.
이날 레이스는 사고가 난 뒤 중단됐다.
동료 드라이버들은 웰던의 사망 사실이 발표된 후 서킷을 5바퀴 도는 추모 주행을 했다.