IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was killed in a horrific 15-car accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.
Wheldon was the first driver killed in an IndyCar crash since 2006, when Paul Dana was killed in an accident during practice.
On lap 11 of the IndyCar series finale, the fiery crash eliminated 14 of the 34 cars in the race. Wheldon’s car ran over a slower car in front, became airborne, and sailed about 200 yards into the catch fence, where the top of his open cockpit made contact with the fence.
The area behind Wheldon was ripped off the car, and his helmet made contact with the wall as the car came down, causing severe head injuries.
The race went to a red flag immediately after the accident.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ryan Briscoe, a driver who was not involved with the crash, said.
“The debris we all had to drive through the lap later, it looked like a war scene from Terminator or something. I mean, there were just pieces of metal and car on fire in the middle of the track with no car attached to it and just debris everywhere.”
Drivers were told to bring their cars onto pit row and were asked to leave the car.
As track crews cleaned up debris on the track, truckloads of parts were dumped in the garage area.
Nearly an hour after the accident, drivers were called into a private meeting. As the drivers discussed whether to continue the race or not, news broke that Wheldon had died.
After the drivers had heard the news, the meeting continued behind closed doors to allow time to grieve. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard then suggested to the drivers that they cancel the race.
“IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries,” Bernard said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today. IndyCar, its drivers and owners, have decided to end the race. In honor of Dan Wheldon, the drivers have decided to do a five-lap salute to in his honor.”
In the crash, championship contender Will Power, rookie JR Hildenbrand, and Pippa Mann were also taken to University Medical Center.
Power suffered back pain and was released, while Hildenbrand and Mann stayed overnight. Hildenbrand was held for further evaluation for a bruised sternum, while Mann had burns on her right pinky finger.
Wheldon was a two time Indianapolis 500 champion, winning in 2005 and 2011, and also won the 2005 IndyCar series.
Wheldon was in the race due to a promotion where if a non-full time series driver could win the final race starting in the back, that driver would earn $2.5 million and a random fan would also win $2.5 million.
Wheldon had only run two races prior in the season, including his Indy 500 victory. He had advanced ten positions in 11 laps to 24th when the accident occurred in front of him.
It was announced that Wheldon had died from blunt force trauma to the head.