SpeedVegas, other US racetracks have seen fatal crashes

When a tourist and driving instructor died in a fiery crash Feb. 12 at the SpeedVegas racetrack south of Las Vegas, it was not the first time for a fatality or serious wreck involving everyday drivers on a racetrack.

In the Las Vegas incident, 37-year-old real estate agent Craig Sherwood from Thornhill, Ontario, drove an orange Lamborghini Aventado with his instructor, Gil Ben-Kely, a 59-year-old, two-time breast cancer survivor, who was in the passenger seat.

On one of the laps, the car, after traveling at more than 100 mph on the track’s longest straightaway paralleling Interstate 15, failed to negotiate an S curve, spun out and slammed into a barrier, where the car burst into flames, killing both occupants.

At least four similar cases exist nationwide. The common thread: no post-crash additional oversight or rules on events and so-called driving experience attractions that put an everyday motorist inside a powerful vehicle.

The families of some of the dead and injured drivers have expressed interest in greater regulation and more changes in the industry. Others have called the loved one’s death an unfortunate result of chance or fate.

As the Las Vegas Valley awaits results of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation into SpeedVegas and talk of further litigation against the company, here is what resulted from four other speedway deaths.

May 15, 2010, Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth

Driving instructor Andre Vandenberg spent three months in a coma and after seven years continues therapy for the unresponsive left side of his body.

In May 2010, Vandenberg was driving a 2003 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Texas Driving Experience. Vandenberg worked as a contractor for the company.

His passenger was Fred “Don” Krusemark, 87. The ride was a token of appreciation from a blood center nonprofit for how much blood Krusemark had donated over the years, according to media reports at the time.

Driving on the Texas Motor Speedway, Vandenberg’s car struck a barrier surrounding the track. Krusemark died. Vandenberg sustained permanent injuries.

In November 2010, Andre and Belinda Vandenberg filed a lawsuit against Texas Driving Experience. Vandenberg accused Texas Driving Experience of not providing proper safety equipment or maintaining the car.

His court case following his crash ended in 2013 with a confidential settlement, though a letter from Vandenberg attorney Andrew Payne said the family sought $3.95 million in insurance coverage from Texas Driving insurance provider National Casualty.

The Krusemark family’s case also settled out of court. Attorneys representing the driving experience did not return requests for comment.

Responding to questions by email because, he said, it is difficult to speak, Vandenberg said he misses driving and has owned 58 motorcycles over the years. He said no local lawmakers or law enforcement showed interest in his case, but a soft barrier system was installed at the track.

“I refuse to go sit in a corner and cry,” Vandenberg said. “I would rather make myself enjoy the life I have.”

June 7, 2014, Summit Point Motorsports Park, Jefferson County, West Virginia

As Wes Novinger puts it, he and his father raced cars like some people collect baseball cards.

Each had a C5 Corvette and had raced numerous times, from Pocono to the Summit Point Motorsports Park where Kenneth Wayne Novinger, 67, raced for the last time.

The elder Novinger was the instructor in the passenger seat of Eric Joseph Vonreichhenback’s 2006 Pontiac GTO. It was a HyperFest OG Racing HyperDrive event, where drivers race their own cars on the raceway while accompanied with a driving instructor.

The car spun after a sharp left-hand turn. Vonreichhenback tried to correct the car, slid on the grass and hit a tree. Novinger died, but Vonreichhenback survived.

Attempts to reach Vonreichhenback were unsuccessful. Representatives with Summit Point Motorsports Park did not respond to a request for comment.

In the three years since the crash, Wes Novinger, 39, has not been on a raceway. His Corvette is now used to carry groceries.

“It gets in your blood,” he said. “It drained my bank account when I was a kid. It’s fun, like any other hobby.”

Though he’ll drive on a raceway eventually, for now it doesn’t feel right knowing how raw the crash still feels for his mother. Novinger said he’ll never stop missing his dad. He never likes when people tell him his dad died doing what he loved, believing that his dad had a long life ahead of him.

Novinger said he emailed an editor at Road & Track magazine after an article published mentioning his father and the popularity of events allowing non-racers on race tracks. He felt the magazine underestimated his dad’s driving prowess. Kenneth Novinger had been a professional truck driver, logging 3 million accident-free miles.

He said he feels no ill will toward the track and its staff. He knows the event’s goal was fun and safety.

The track has since cut down the trees where his dad crashed. The younger Novinger was never approached by any lawyers or lawmakers about the event.

According to OSHA records, Summit Point Raceway Associates was fined $17,100 for violations including deficiencies in the maintenance building, noise exposure and the employer failing to report the fatal injury. Summit Point settled with the government for $10,000.

“When you get down to the basics of it, it was a terrible accident,” Wes Novinger said. “Accidents happen.”

Sept. 14, 2014, Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Kentucky

A confidential settlement almost two years after his death ended the courtroom saga following Stephen Cox’s fatal crash at a Rusty Wallace Racing Experience.

But his family is still interested in states adding regulations for driving experiences.

“Losing Stephen has been like losing part of our identity,” his sister, Sarah Miller, said. “In our hearts we still count six, though now there are only five at the family table.”

Cox, 30, went with his father Doug to a speedway billed at the time as the “roughest track in NASCAR” because of its bumpy road. The trip was a birthday present to the younger Cox, a pharmacist, according to the lawsuit filed by his family after the incident.

Cox would drive a fourth-generation Chevrolet stock car. He received a full face helmet and fire-resistant suit.

Driving around 100 mph at around 10:45 a.m., Cox and the Chevrolet veered left. He struck a concrete wall, then a barrier. Cox broke his skull, spine and other bones.

A helicopter took Cox to a Cincinnati hospital. Medical records said he bled from his mouth, ears and nose. His skin was pale, cool, dry. Emergency responders wrapped him in a blanket to keep him warm.

Cox lived for another week before succumbing to his injuries, surrounded by his family. The cost of trying to save Cox and to bury him added up to about $425,000, according to the lawsuit.

His parents hired Ohio attorney Gary Leppla to represent Cox’s estate in litigation. Named as defendants were the Rusty Wallace company, the Kentucky Speedway and even the employee who strapped Cox into the car.

Leppla argued in court filings that the car Cox drove was outdated with faulty parts, that Cox would never have driven and signed a liability waiver had Rusty Wallace made clear of prior instances in the country where a steering wheel came loose in the cars.

“It’s as if you let kids play peewee football without helmets,” Leppla said in an interview.

The lawsuit allowed the family to combat rumors that Cox had a medical episode in the car by airing concerns in public.

Miller, the sister, said that if she could speak to the families of the two men who died at SpeedVegas, she’d tell them to grieve but continue living in their roles as parent, child and professional.

To lawmakers and regulators in the valley and Nevada, she said she hopes they don’t take the crash lightly.

“It could happen again,” Miller said. “State and local governments need to take a stand to protect tourists and their local economies.”

The Kentucky Speedway repaved its track in 2016. An attorney for the Rusty Wallace company and Kentucky Speedway declined to comment outside of what was said in court filings.

April 12, 2015, Walt Disney World Speedway, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

The lawsuit over the death of driving instructor Gary Terry continues to play out in a Florida circuit court.

Terry died when a guardrail pierced the 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo driven by customer Tavon Watson, who survived.

Terry’s widow, Katherine, has sued the driver as well as the operators of the attraction, the Richard Petty and Exotic driving experiences, seeking at least $15,000.

Florida-based attorney Tony Sos, representing the Terry family, declined to comment on ongoing litigation. Attorneys for Watson, Exotic Driving Experience, Richard Petty Driving Experience and Petty Holdings did not return requests for comment.

On May 30, Pacific Indemnity Insurance Co. filed a document saying it would pay $84,000 in workers’ compensation benefits to the Terry estate.

In legal filings, Watson and the companies have denied the Terry family’s charges of negligence against them. They said Terry understood the risks of instructing amateur drivers on a high-speed track.

In April 2015, OSHA fined Petty Holdings $7,000 over the guard rail and record-keeping violations. Petty contested the fine and reached a settlement agreement for $6,685 in February, according to OSHA records. The case is still open because Petty has not yet paid the fine.

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at wmillward@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Mojave Max at Springs Preserve
File footage of Mojave Max at Springs Preserve. (Springs Preserve)
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Driver dies in single-vehicle crash
One person is dead after an early Wednesday morning crash in the northwest valley. The single-vehicle crash was called in about 1:35 a.m. on Jones Boulevard just north of Deer Springs Way, according to Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Robert Stauffer. The driver, who was the only person inside the vehicle, died at the scene.
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services On Thursday, Uber launched its Uber Health platform for healthcare providers. Medical facilities, rehab centers, clinics and hospitals can book rides for patients from a centralized dashboard – no app required. According to Techcrunch, Uber Health general manager Chris Weber noted some 3.6 million Americans miss appointments due to lack access to reliable transportation. Uber’s endeavors into health care trace back to 2014, when Uber first offered on-demand flu shots in large markets across the U.S. Since then there have been similar efforts throughout the world, from diabetes and thyroid testing in India, to subsidized rides for breast cancer screening in the U.S., to many more. Last summer, over 100 healthcare organizations joined the platform during a private beta. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Business
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes Trump tweeted his concerns about the company on Thursday. This isn't the first time Trump commented on the issues via Twitter. August 2017 December 2017 Amazon did hold back on paying state taxes in 1995, but the company has been routinely collecting state sales taxes since then. In 2016, the company's report from the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed it paid $412 million in taxes.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
eyecandylab CEO shows augmented reality during NAB
Robin Sho Moser, CEO and co-founder of eyecandylab gives an augmented reality demonstration at his booth during the National Association of Broadcaster Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Trends in access to capital for local black business owners
Denette Braud, owner of Braud’s Funnel Cake Cafe, talks about what owning her own business means to her.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Adobe unveils #HackTheBracket application for March Madness
Adobe unveiled their #HackTheBracket application at the Adobe Summit trade show at Sands Expo. People can use data from Adobe Analytics to make their bracket for March Madness. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Adidas Signs Yankees' Star Aaron Judge
Adidas Signs New York Yankees Star Aaron Judge The slugger is set to don a new set of stripes this season after signing with the apparel company. Aaron Judge Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal includes branding on his batting gloves and wristbands. Judge, the AL's reigning Rookie of the Year, was previously under contract with Under Armour since 2014. Judge won the American League Rookie of the Year award last season after setting an MLB record for most homers in a rookie season (52).
Esports athletes are sponsored, too
Meet Red Bull-sponsored professional esports player Daryl S. Lewis, better known by his in-game name Snake Eyez. Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bettor Investments turned into a bad bet
Bettor Investments formerly operated a Nevada-licensed entity betting operation. The company promised “conservative growth, profits and stability for our investors.” Matt Stuart, who ran the fund, shut it down in late 2016 and never made good on an agreement with shareholders.
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design Get your thinking caps on because the company is looking for a new cup that's easier to recycle. The $10 million grant challenge sees Starbucks partnering with investor group Closed Loop Partners for the project. According to CNN Money, Aside from the new cup design challenge, Starbucks stated it will test a cup with an inner lining made from plant fibers to prevent hot liquid from leaking. Will you join the challenge for #Bettercups?
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like