Friday 07 February 2003

Marshals: Andy Carpenter and Steve Tarrant

'Errors of judgement' in death crash race

A racing driver who died after his car spun off a wet track at 100mph crashed into a finishing post which had not been approved by the sport's ruling officials. An inquest jury at County Hall, Chichester, was told the fact the post was not checked by the Motoring Sports Association (MSA) was among a number of errors of judgement on the day. Driver John Dawson-Damer, 59, of New South Wales, Australia, was killed when his Lotus 63 careered off the track at Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 24 2000.

The jury heard how a marshal, Andrew Carpenter, 40, from Polegate, was standing behind the finishing post when the car smashed into it. He was seriously injured and later died at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester. A second marshal, Steve Tarrant from Poole, Dorset, who was standing by the post holding a chequered flag, lost his right leg in the crash.

The jury heard the finishing post, or gantry, should have been checked by MSA officials before a track license was issued. John Symes, a mechanical engineer in charge of track safety, issued a license on June 22, two days before the fatal crash but admitted he did not recall seeing the gantry. Detective Chief Inspector Neil Fellingham, of Sussex Police, said: "There were errors of judgement but no gross negligence. Motor racing is a dangerous sport with inherent risks."

The inquest was told Mr Dawson-Damer had not been wearing an MSA-approved helmet but pathologist Dr James Simpson said even the latest in helmet designs could not have saved him.

The jury is due to consider its verdict today.

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