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NASCAR, Loudon police devise fatal-crash plan

With two deaths at New Hampshire this year, their plan of action will ensure a proper investigation, should the need arise.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2000


Loudon, N.H., police chief Robert Fiske said Wednesday he and NASCAR chief operating officer Mike Helton met for 30 minutes last week to devise a plan of action should there be another fatal crash at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Fiske said in late July that Loudon police were not notified of the wreck that killed Winston Cup driver Kenny Irwin until two hours afterward and only then by someone in the infield care center.

Had police been notified sooner of the July7 crash -- the second fatal wreck in an eight-week span at the track -- he believed his investigators might have an answer to what caused the accident.

As the Winston Cup series returns to New Hampshire for the Dura Lube 300 this weekend, Fiske said NASCAR officials are aware Loudon police must be notified immediately if there's a fatal crash. The parties met on Sept. 6.

"We in turn will be there, be able to have the opportunity to take pictures and the measures and whatever else we decide to do," Fiske said.

"They (NASCAR) did indicate the procedure was different from place to place and they would do whatever we deemed necessary. They said they were not up here to step on toes in any way, shape or form or take anybody's authority away. They would do whatever we wished."

None of Loudon's nine officers was in the infield or pit area the day of Irwin's crash. Fiske was at a police substation, and his officers were outside the track helping with crowd control and patroling the town. Inside the track were off-duty state troopers and Merrimack County sheriff's deputies providing security. That will not be the case this weekend. Two Loudon police officers will be present in the infield and garage.

Also, personnel at the infield hospital will be given a list of whom to notify at the police department and at what phone numbers they can be reached in the event of a fatal accident.

Because they were not in the infield and not notified immediately, Loudon police were unable to conduct any on-scene investigating the day Irwin crashed because 30 minutes after the accident and 15 minutes after Irwin was taken to the infield care center, the wreckage had been cleaned up and practice restarted.

The car was impounded, studied by NASCAR officials and Loudon investigators, then released to the race team, which towed the car to North Carolina and had it shredded.

"NASCAR, as big as we are, are not in a position to overrule police," Helton said last month in Indianapolis. "They're the police. And we can't use a black flag on them. The rules and regulations of the local environment that we're in are the ones that supersede even us."

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