FHP and OSHA investigators have additional insights based off the in-car camera that filmed the crash. While the video hasn’t been released to the public, it shows both a view of the driver and passenger inside the car, and a forward facing view looking out of the car.
According to the FHP, the video shows the instructor, victim Gary Terry, reaching over to take control of the steering wheel from the driver attempting to correct the car as it went into a spin. Both driver and passenger were wearing helmets and restrained with an over the shoulder seat-belt. The car was going about about 100 mph at the time of the accident. Due to the nature of the impact with the guard rail, the instructor was killed instantly.
The investigation will look at if the safety features of the track were suitable for the reverse direction circulation used by the Exotic Driving Experience. It looks like the guard rail the car impacted was at a high speed portion of the track and not protected by tires or a curve that would prevent impalement injuries like the passenger suffered.
Update: Race car driver and coach Jon Lee Miller has written a must read piece about the fatal accident. Miller illustrates the point I make above about how dangerous it is to drive in the wrong direction on a track. Frustratingly, it’s likely a $300 investment in track improvements could have saved a life here. We’ll know more when the investigation is complete, but meanwhile, I urge all similar facilities to get on board with safety improvements and drivers and teams should insist on postponing races at unsafe locations.
It is also reported that the driver of the car, 24-year-old TaVon Waton, was a cast member at a Walt Disney World resort enjoying a birthday present his wife had gotten him. The laps in the white Lamborghini was his 2nd car of the day.
Since the incident took place on a private course, Watson won’t face charges in the accident. The Walt Disney World Speedway is currently closed for the investigation.
In following the news coverage, it’s interesting how many people associate the two Walt Disney World Speedway driving experiences as a Disney attraction, when really it’s a 3rd party operator and it’s not actually in a theme park. Regardless, the Disney reputation has suffered a bit from the incident.
That is the danger Disney faces by inviting 3rd party operators like Richard Petty Driving Experience to the resort (or even trash or valet services). Guests don’t always understand the difference between the Speedway and a theme park attraction or a 3rd party vendor and Disney. You have to wonder if Disney will let the Speedway re-open at this point.
When I think back to the avoidable tragic death of a Monorail cast member in 2009, Disney World took a well-deserved hit in public perception for that. Still, no one was calling for the Monorail to close.
What makes this different is that the Speedway was scheduled to close for good on August 9th of this year. Does it make sense to reopen either the Exotic Driving Experience or the NASCAR themed Richard Petty Driving Experience? What do you think?
Update: a GoFundMe fundraiser has been setup to help the family of Gary Terry cover funeral expenses and care for their future
Previously: Walt Disney World Speedway employee dies in tragic accident.
My prayers go out to the family of Brian Terry as well as TaVon Watson. While I do not know the full details, what I do know seems like a tragic accident that Watson will have to live with for the rest of his life. That’s more “sentence” than he deserves so I think no charges are an appropriate conclusion.
I did the RPDE twice years ago, before the Exotic Car program was offered. I was buckled in the car with neck restraints. The procedure was to follow the pro driver in another car by two car lengths for 8 laps. The Pro would watch me and gauge whether he could ease up the speed. It felt perfectly safe and, of course, it has been at WDW and many other tracks in a great many instances. But I was only on the main course with 4 turns and a front-stretch dog leg, always turning left and never to the right. The turns are very gradual and sweeping.
If I’m following the picture correctly, the exotic car experience is more along the lines of a road course that bypasses the track front stretch with a zig-zag path across the middle of the track. Seems like a much more involved driving experience that perhaps was ill-advised for amateurs. If you get out of shape early in the zig zag, the trouble is compounded by fact that another twist is coming very quickly. It would be easy to panic if things start to go bad.
Disney has little to gain by not accelerating the closure of the RPDE. If the choice was mine, I would not allow it to resume operations, especially not the Exotic Car experience.
See my most recent update to the story
I drove a Lamborghini there last year and Gary was a super
nice guy.I can’t imagine what went wrong unless something
broke on the car or a tire blew.If drivers pay attention in
the drivers meeting and listen to the passenger instructor
then nothing bad should happen.I was pushing the car
that I drove pretty hard and I can’t image what went wrong.
Thank you,Tim Stem
Even if a 3rd party provider it is hard to argue with the aireal photo of a crashed car near the large blue Mickey logo.
That Jon Lee Miller link is pretty damning. He doesn’t hold back much in blasting the basic safety of the Exotic Car program. If half of what he says is correct, the OSHA report will not be kind.