Crash at Grand Prix of Houston sends fence debris flying into crowd, 15 injured

October 7, 2013 2:20:26 PM PDT
IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti was still in the hospital Monday following a wreck at the Grand Prix of Houston that sent debris into the crowd, injuring several spectators and a race official.

Franchitti's car launched over Takuma Sato's and sailed into the fence on the final lap. Debris was showered into the grandstand from both the cars colliding and the impact with the fence, and Franchitti's badly-damaged car bounced back onto the track. E.J. Viso then hit Sato's car.

"The car hit the fence like I've never seen before in my life," spectator Noah Tramel said. "It was insane. Absolutely crazy."

A video was sent in by ABC13 viewer Josh Jordan. You can see the camera jolting from the impact followed by a chorus of gasps from spectators. Another video shot by David M. Fourcard shows a tighter view of the moment of impact.

"A piece of fence had landed to where a lady was trapped underneath it, so she was very lucky when we walked over here. She was crawling underneath the fence to get out," spectator Paul Basaldua said.

Another home video sent in exclusively to ABC13 shows fans lifting the fence to get away from the debris.

"One guy came down and was bleeding from his head," Basaldua said. "He was with a little girl, probably his granddaughter, and she was shaken up pretty bad."

A total of 13 spectators were injured in the accident. Eleven of them were treated at the scene, but two fans were transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, along with Franchitti, a four-time IndyCar champion, and an official with IndyCar. As of this morning, only Franchitti remained in the hospital.

The chaos in the aftermath had everyone scrambling to help those injured.

"We were at one of the vendor booths and there was some crew people who came around and asked, 'Do you have giveaway shirts so we can give to the people that got hurt?'" Oliver Chen said.

Franchitti will remain at Memorial Hermann Hospital for the next few days before flying back to Indianapolis for further evaluation. He is recovering from a concussion, a fracture to the spine and surgery to the right ankle.

Many folks are saying he is lucky to be alive. It was an accident that could have been much worse.

It's hard to get the frightening image out of your mind, considering what could have happened.

"It was horrific," witness David Fourcard said. "The sounds of the carbon fiber shredding and tires burning and everything, and from the impact of the fence shredding from the post. It sounded pretty horrific."

Current Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan tweeted a photo of him and fellow driver Scott Dixon visiting one of those hospitalized on Monday.

"I'm just glad that no one was seriously injured and no lives were lost," Fourcard said.

No lives lost as in the case of Indycar driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a high-speed crash in Las Vegas just two years ago. Since then, changes to the cars themselves have been made to improve driver safety. Some are crediting those changes as the reason Franchitti is still alive.

After the wreck, the caution came out to freeze the field, allowing Penske Racing's Will Power to win the race, holding off Scott Power.

INDYCAR issued the following statement Monday: " Our thoughts remain with everyone affected by yesterday's accident. Thank you to the people of Houston for their support of the Grand Prix and their concern for Dario Franchitti, the fans and race personnel. INDYCAR is thoroughly reviewing the incident. Reducing the risks that are associated with racing is one of our highest priorities and receives our constant and on-going focus."

If you were there and have photos or video, you can send them to us at news@abc13.com.

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