Daytona crash: 33 fans hurt, 2 critically, when car hits fence

Daytona crash: 33 fans hurt, 2 critically, when car smashes into fence, rips in two

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Photo by Greg Engle/Fox 35 News Photo by Greg Engle/Fox 35 News
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

A crash that ripped a car in two and sent its engine through a catch fence at the end of the NASCAR Nationwide race injured 33 fans, two critically, Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. 

More than a dozen were taken to area hospitals, and 14 others were treated at the scene.

In a news conference earlier, Speedway president Joie Chitwood said 14 people were transported off the property, and 14 were treated on site. However, that number continues to change as the number of victims rises.

The injured were taken to three area hospitals; none have reported fatal injuries. Twelve were taken to Halifax Health in Daytona Beach. Six others were transported to Halifax Health in Port Orange; two patients there were critical but stable, including a child.

The incident happened in the final lap of the 120-lap NASCAR Nationwide DRIVE4COPD 300 race as the field charged to the checkered flag. Leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski to preserve the victor. That triggered a chain reaction, and rookie Kyle Larson hit the cars in front of him and went airborne into the fence, ripping off the front of the car when it hit a crossover gate.

Several parts -- including the engine -- and at least one tire ended up on the inside of the fence. Another tire flew into the stands.

The entire front end was sheared off Larson's car, and his burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence. Chunks of debris from the car were thrown into the stands, including a tire that cleared the top of the fence and landed midway up the spectator section closest to the track.

Larson, 20, stood in shock several yards away from his car as fans in the stands waved frantically for help. Smoke from the burning engine briefly clouded the area, and emergency vehicles descended on the scene.

While a muted celebration took place in victory lane, emergency personnel raced to the scene and began treating drivers and injured fans. All the drivers involved in the crash were evaluated and released from the infield medical center.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," Chitwood said in a brief news conference. "Following the incident, we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately."

Earlier in the race, another multi-car crash injured driver Michael Annett, who was taken to a local hospital. He was characterized as awake and alert.

Tony Stewart was declared the winner of the event, but in victory lane, his thoughts were on those involved in the incident.

"We've always known this is a dangerous sport," Stewart said. 'But it's hard when the fans get caught up in it."

Chitwood said crews would repair the area, although the crossover gate would be replaced with straight fencing. He added that the 55th running of the Daytona 500 would run as scheduled Sunday. The area involved in Saturday's accident would be reopened to fans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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