Summary of Panel of Review into Waikerie Hotel ARB Riverland 300 incident

Result of AASA Panel of Review into vehicle-to-vehicle crash at the Waikerie Hotel ARB Riverland 300 conducted Saturday 14/07/2018 and Sunday 15/07/2018.

– Summary –

At 12.45pm on Sunday July 15, 2018, a relatively high-speed vehicle-to-vehicle contact incident occurred, between Vehicles 101 and 2531, resulting in loss of control of both vehicles and subsequent crash, near the location known as Gate 5 of the Waikerie Enduro course, adjacent to Enduro Rd.

Vehicle 101, during lap 5 of its traverse of the course, ran into the rear of Vehicle 2531, which was on its 4th lap of the course. The heavy impact between vehicles ended with 101 being launched, rolling onto its side. It caused 2531 to roll over, possibly multiple times, and be severely damaged around the gearbox and engine compartment with failure of the structure and fuel tank support, catching fire as a result of the impact. The vehicle continued to burn, causing rescue issues for the driver, and subsequently became a total loss.

Three of the four competitors were rendered unconscious by the impact, but with all regaining consciousness at differing times in the seconds following the impact. The driver of Vehicle 2531 also suffered burns during the incident. All competitors were assessed at the scene, with three subsequently being transported to Waikerie Health Service, and one eventually to Royal Adelaide Hospital for further treatment.

The Panel of Review was appointed by the Australian Auto Sport Alliance Pty Ltd (AASA), the sanctioning body for the event, chaired by the Chairman of the AASA, Mr. Bruce Robertson, and was comprised of the Event Steward, Mr Gary Gourlay, and Mr Phillip Memery, another Senior AASA Steward. Two AASA staff and the AASA Chief Executive Officer Mr Chris Lewis-Williams, were also involved in the review of evidence and relevant material available to the Panel, collected from various sources both on the day and since the incident. The purpose of the Panel was to finalize ongoing investigations into the incident, the collection of statements and evidence post-incident, to enable a conclusion to be reached as to the circumstances leading up to, during and post the incident taking place.

In summary, it is the view of the Panel, that the incident can only be deemed a racing incident, for AASA and event records, on the basis that no specific causal blame could be attached to any individual or crew, as to what could be described as an infringement of the sporting rules of the AASA.
Many racing incidents can have multiple contributory causal circumstances leading up to an incident, contributing to it in many minor ways. Such is the case here, and in hindsight many small decisions made by competitors may contribute to, lessen or avoid, such incidents. No competitor should ever be penalised for doing what they are out there to do within the scope of the rules, which is to compete to the best of their ability.

The video evidence as viewed by the Panel, shows a surprising and substantially disparate performance capability between the vehicles, in the moments leading up to the crash, and that Vehicle 2531 may have been travelling at considerably lower speed than the competitive pace it is capable of, due to perhaps having just been overtaken by a faster competitor and being severely dusted in, more so than normal, not long before the incident.

It has been measured that the driver of Vehicle 101 had less than one third of a second of reaction time, between when the rear of Vehicle 2531 became visible, to impact. The Panel acknowledges the difficult and changing dust conditions of the event, as seen in all video evidence, and reported in the written and verbal evidence of all who contributed. The Panel notes the strong breeze/wind at the time of the incident in the vicinity of the accident scene, may have been deceiving to “read” by any following driver (as to the whereabouts of the vehicle or vehicles causing the dust). This factor remains as a not inconsequential potential causal factor.

The Panel has found the response times of the event rescue and fire services, as activated and dispatched to the scene Race Control, to be totally adequate, in the time taken to arrive at the incident scene, and the civil response times seem pleasingly short also.

It is self-evident that the relevant safety equipment as worn by competitors, such as helmets, head restraints, and the upper body restraints, have all acted as intended, and saved perhaps further injury. There is some comment that the arm tethers, and the way they were fitted, may have caused issues in pulling the driver of 2531 from the burning wreckage, and indeed the value of both window nets and arm tethers being used simultaneously.

The Panel also finds that rescue actions to assist the incapacitated competitors, by competitors both involved in the incident, and who had subsequently stopped at the scene to assist, as well as bystanders, were exemplary, and may have even been brave.

The Stewards’ Panel has noted a number of outcomes for AASA and AORRA to examine, and specific recommendations for improving the conduct and safety of the sport, may arise from this incident. A number of these are already under examination. These recommendations will be passed on to AORRA for assessment on behalf of and the future benefit of the sport.

– Ends –

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