Chichester Observer                                    Index

29th June 2000

'Probe goes on into double-death tragedy'

A major investigation was still under way today into an horrific 100mph crash which killed a driver and a race marshal at the Goodwoood Festival of Speed on Saturday afternoon.
But a claim in one national newspaper on Monday that the future of the huge event could be now in doubt was firmly rejected by organisers, who pledged that it would continue.

Thousands of people saw the accident on television monitors, as a 1969 Goldleaf Lotus 63 Formula One car, driven by the Hon. John Dawson-Damer, 59, brother of the Earl of Portarlington, went out of control and smashed into a marshals' post at the finishing line.

Mr Dawson-Damer, from Sydney, Australia, was killed instantly. Marshal Andrew Carpenter, 40, of Polegate, East Sussex, died later in St Richard's Hospital, Chichester. A second marshal, Steve Tarrant, 40, of Poole, Dorset, whose lower right leg was sheared off by the car, was later said to be "stable" in St Richard's.

There was speculation this week that the driver could have suffered a heart attack moments before the accident, but after a post-mortem examination at the hospital on Tuesday, police said death was caused by injuries received in the accident. Officers took away the car for examination, and a Sussex police spokesman said details of their findings would not be revealed until an inquest into the deaths of the two men was held.

Chichester District Council said the accident was also being investigated by its environmental health officers. "The investigation will be thorough and conducted alongside that of the police and the coroner's officer," a spokesman added. The council would be discussing the matter with the Motor Sports Association and the British Automobile Racing Club, which are involved in the investigations.

The Earl of March told the Observer this week; "We will of course listen to all of the organisations involved in the investigation. We have worked very hard in the past to make sure the event is as safe as it possibly can be. We will consider any recommendations."

The crash cast a shadow over the biggest and most spectacular Festival of Speed since the event was founded by Lord March eight years ago. The attendance of 109,280 for the three days broke all previous records, topping the 1999 figure by more than 8,000. Mr Dawson-Damer's wife, Ashley, was among horrified spectators who saw the live television pictures of the crash, just after 4pm on Saturday. Spectators saw ambulances and police cars race to the scene as paramedics tried to help Mr Dawson-Damer and the marshals.

There has been one other fatality at the Festival of Speed - a motor-cyclist was killed in its first year in 1993.

The tragedy on Saturday happened while Mr Dawson-Damer's car, one of ten in the time trial, was speeding towards the end of the track. An immediate inquiry was launched into whether he lost control, or whether the vehicle had any defects. The remainder of the day's hill climb events were cancelled, but resumed on Sunday, Lord March considered calling off all of the rest of the programme, but revealed that Mr Dawson-Damer's family wanted it to go ahead.

Formula One star Johnny Herbert spoke of the dangers of motorsport when he paid a tribute to John Dawson-Damer at Sunday night's Festival of Speed prizegiving.

"He was a good friend of mine, a Lotus fanatic who told me at the beginning of the year that he was going to rebuild the Lotus 63," said the Jaguar driver. "He did it and took his life. John knew the risks because motor-racing is dangerous, and it can catch you out.

Canon Lionel Weber chaplain to the British Racing Drivers' Club, led prayers for the two men who died in Saturday's accident.

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