On August 9, 2014, there was a serious crash at Canandaigua, New York Motorsports Park, a dirt track. Tony Stewart struck fellow driver, 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr. His website (kevinwardracing.com) indicates he is 17, but has not been updated in some time. He was in his fifth season with the Empire Super Sprints circuit. Stewart is a very successful 43-year-old NASCAR driver and was supposed to participate in a race at Watkins Glen on ESPN the following day at noon.
A hospital spokeswoman said Ward was hospitalized with "life-threatening injuries" following a "serious accident." They later confirmed Ward died. Police were speaking to his parents as of early Sunday morning.
Witnesses say, "It happened in Turn 2," said the 27-year-old Dulski. "The prior lap, Tony had gotten into him – just spun him, nothing big, just spun him around. The caution came out. He hopped out of the car – the driver of the 13 ... he hopped out to go and yell and point a finger at Tony, typical thing.
"Tony came around ... the back end slid out, and he definitely caught him – I couldn't tell if it was with the front or the back of the car. ... The body made contact with the car and went sliding across the track a long distance, at least 50 feet. It was the worst thing I've ever seen."
Graves, 16, of Bolivar, N.Y., said "Tony and Kevin were battling. … I believe they got together on the front-stretch, Kevin hit the wall and his tire went down. So he spun between (turns) 1 and 2. He got out of the car after the caution was thrown and began to walk down the track, pointing right at the 14, throwing his hands all around. The last thing I seen Kevin do was put his finger to his helmet."
Graves said he saw Stewart's car swerve and the right rear tire hit Ward. Ward was caught up under the tire and then was launched about 50 yards. Ward hit the ground and didn't move, according to Graves.
In July of last year, Stewart also was involved in an incident at the Canandaigua track. He sparked a multi-car wreck that sent two drivers to the hospital with injuries. Stewart has had run-ins with what some call temper-related issues throughout his career. He was fined and put on probation by both NASCAR and Home Depot for an incident with a photographer after the Brickyard 400 and also investigated by the Sullivan County, TN sheriff's department for allegedly shoving a woman after the race in Bristol. A safety worker from New Hampshire is accusing Tony of punching him after Stewart wrecked out of the July race. When you have Stewart's status, people also line up to make claims against you.
The "vehicular manslaughter" codes of New York generally apply to vehicles on the roadway. This was obviously a race and contest, thus we do not believe those fully apply. Manslaughter in the second degree in New York states: "A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when... He recklessly causes the death of another person." Certainly, other criminal codes could apply.
As criminal defense lawyers look at this, the question will come as to what Tony Stewart saw and intended and what forensically can be determined by this video evidence and other accounts and evidence. It is significant that the lap was UNDER CAUTION because of the initial wreck Stewart caused to Ward. If Stewart, in fact, intended to scare or intimidate or hit Ward, or was determined to be exceedingly reckless, Tony Stewart could likely be charged with manslaughter unless there was an intent to cause harm. Mitigating factors would be the fact that Ward was wearing all black on a known dark corner of the track and exited his car. Many tracks make drivers sign waivers and otherwise enforce the very limited circumstances an on-track vehicle should be exited. Stewart's history of aggression may work against him, but the comparative liability of Ward exiting his vehicle is certainly a factor.
Civil liability is separate and may also follow for wrongful death where death was "caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant."
At this time, not enough facts are known. Police are likely to do a full investigation before making issuing too much of a statement or making any decision on criminal charges or arrest. Thoughts and prayers to all involved. This is for informational purposes only. For more details, visit http://wp.me/p2TQEg-Pb.