Posted on October 19, 2011 · Posted in Brain Injury

So it wasn’t the inferno of flames that killed Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Weldon when he was in the middle of a fiery 15-car pile-up last Sunday in Last Vegas. It was traumatic brain injury.

The Clark County Office of Coroner/Medical Examiner (CCOCME) performed an autopsy on Wheldon earlier this week, and “determined the cause of death to be blunt head trauma due to motor vehicle collision,” according to a press release issued by the office.

“The manner of death was ruled accidental,” the release said.’sCauseofDeath.aspx

Wheldon was pronounced dead Sunday at 1:54 p.m. at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. 

The death of 33-year-old Wheldon, a popular figure with race fans and his colleagues, has sparked a debate about the safety of races such as the one at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Wheldon was killed. Reportedly, Wheldon got caught up in a wreck that took place when two race cars touched tires and crashed.

There has been endless press coverage about racing safety issues in the media. NASCAR winner Jimmie Johnson immediately called for IndyCars to stop racing on ovals like the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, described as “a high-banked, 1.5-mile oval” by the Associated Press. Those cars should be limited to road courses, according to Johnson.

Johnson pointed out the dangers: IndyCars have an open cockpit and open wheels “that can’t withstand the bumping that occurs on ovals,” according to AP; and these cars average 225 mph during these races.

“I’ve never been 225 mph in my life,” Johnson, a veteran race car driver, told AP.

The New York Times also wrote a detailed story on the dangers of IndyCar racing in a story with the headline “Worries Circles Las Vegas Track Before a Pileup.”

IndyCar races on oval tracks such as the one in Las Vegas leave no margin for error. And racers apparently had apparently complained that the Vegas raceway had odd banking and angles, according to The Times.

“Drivers complained of not being able to find a smooth, safe driving line,” the paper wrote.

Weldon was lured to Las Vegas by the $5 million purse for Sunday’s race.   

The Las Vegas Coroner’s Office said that it  “with permission from the Wheldon family will work closely with race officials, safety equipment personnel and the attending physicians to fully review this case in a continuing effort to help increase safety for drivers.”

Let’s hope there are some answers, suggestions that are heeded.   



About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447