Fiery IndyCar Crash's Muffed Response Blamed on "Human Error"
Upon review of the on-track fire during the June 5 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indy Racing League discovered a procedural error in the packing of a fire hose on one of its trucks that caused it to malfunction as well as a breakdown in Safety Team protocol in its response to the incident.
"First and foremost, the Safety Team puts the highest priority on driver safety," said Mike Yates, track safety manager for the Indy Racing League. "Prior to every race, the Safety Team tests all hoses to ensure they're working. At Texas, there was an error in the re-packing of the hose after the test, which caused it to malfunction. We are modifying hoses on all the trucks beginning this weekend in Iowa to prevent this from happening again.
"Additionally, upon arriving at the scene of the incident, our protocol calls for Safety Team members to take pressurized canisters with water and Cold Fire to the car to extinguish the fire as a first response. In situations like this, decisions are made in a split second based on the severity of the incident. After critiquing the situation, we have determined that the canisters are a more efficient and effective way to quickly suppress on-track fires. This will be reviewed with all Safety Team members."
The Safety Team consists of approximately 24 highly-trained personnel with a minimum of 14 attending each event -- 2 trauma physicians, 3 paramedics and 9 firefighters/EMTs. Team members have an average of 20 years of experience in their respective areas.
"Our Safety Team is at the forefront of motorsports safety and over the years has set a very high standard in its response to all on-track incidents," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the Indy Racing League. "We are always continually looking for ways to improve the way we operate. What happened at Texas was a result of human error and we will work diligently to prevent this in the future. The safety of our teams, drivers and officials on the racetrack remains our number one priority."
The Safety Team is divided into three response units. When an on-track incident occurs, the first team to arrive on the scene is responsible for the driver and his/her extrication from the car, if necessary. The second team begins track cleanup at the area of impact. The third team makes a complete lap around the track to check for fluids and debris that may have been dropped during the incident.
The Safety Team conducts frequent training sessions for its members and meets daily with track safety personnel during event weekends.