After six long years, Houston Grand Prix hosted its first race at Reliant Park over the weekend. Many Houstonians were looking forward to the race and the opportunity to see some of the greatest drivers right here in their hometown.
The weekend was great - the weather was perfect and the event was looking like a success until the very last lap when three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti’s car crashed, sending the car airborne into the catchfence Sunday afternoon. The crash sent debris into the crowd, injuring 13 spectators and an IndyCar Series official. While Franchitti was sent to the hospital to undergo surgery for his injuries, the crowd was left in shock and scrambling.
It seems this happens all too often. In fact, there was just an incident in February of this year at Daytona International Speedway where a crash also sent debris into the stands, injuring 28 people. It is easy to find information on specific crashes, but there does not seem to be a comprehensive statistical list of how often this happens. PRESS, Inc., a racing safety company cites insurance industry sources as saying as many as 2,000 spectators are injured at races each year.
Organizers, promoters and venues have a legal duty to ensure proper safety precautions are taken to protect the fans. If there were any deviations to this protocol, the injured spectators may have a case against the facility, otherwise it’s assumed that the spectators are knowingly at risk which protects the organizers against any liability.
Safety has always been high on IndyCar agenda. According to their website, a league consultant said they were committed to finding better design for the barriers to prevent crash debris from reaching fans. Hopefully things don’t have to get worse before they get better.