Press Release

June 21, 2009
  Contact: Ivan Orisek
Rally New York Ltd.
Phone: 845-794-4096

Racing Accident on Rogues Harbor Road in Wawarsing, New York During Summer Rallysprint 2009

Forestburgh, New York — The purpose of this press release is to inform on the medical condition of the competitors involved in this racing accident, correct the press release disseminated by Associated Press last night without giving Rally New York the opportunity to comment on it, which gave a wrong information on the condition of the codriver and was widely reprinted by local newspapers, and explain the circumstances of this racing accident.

The driver Mark Lawrence, an accomplished rally driver, suffered a fractured collar bone, was treated at the Ellenville Community Hospital and was released.

The codriver Eamonn Sweeney was unconscious after the accident and, as it is customary in these situations, was airlifted to Westchester Medical Center where he was kept in an induced coma. As of this writing, Eamonn is sitting in a chair, he is talking and is a little confused about what happened. The second CAT scan performed today 24 hours after the accident gave him a clear bill of health. The extent of his injuries is a sprained knee and he is sore. He may be discharged tomorrow.

This racing accident happened on a section of a closed race course: A portion of Rogues Harbor Road in Wawarsing, New York was closed to regular traffic for the purposes of Summer Rallysprint 2009, an event of New York Rally Championship, organized by Rally New York, Ltd. on Saturday, June 20, 2009. The road closure was authorized according to Section 1182 of New York Vehicle & Traffic Law. According to Section 1182, traffic laws are suspended during the authorized road closure.

In rally racing, small sedans modified for safety and performance compete against the clock on sections of public roads closed to civilian traffic. The cars start at one-minute intervals and there is no wheel-to-wheel racing. The crew of each competing car consists of a driver and a codriver, also called a navigator.

Racing accidents in rally racing are rare but can happen. The cars are extensively modified for safety with roll cages, six-point racing harnesses (racing seat belts) and fire suppressing equipment. The crews are required to wear protective fireproof clothing, automobile helmets, and head and neck restraints (generally HANS devices).

As it should be obvious from the relatively minor, non-life-threatening injuries of the driver and codriver, these safety measures worked very well and as intended. Both crew members are expected to recover fully. It should be stressed that competitors, marshals and HAM radio operators followed the extensive safety and emergency procedures outlined in the event Safety Plan to the letter. A Forest Ranger from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was assigned to the event and assisted at the site of the accident.

On Saturday, about two miles after the start, the crew of Lawrence and Sweeney in a Volkswagen Golf failed to negotiate a left turn and struck a tree on the outside of the turn by the codriver’s side of the car. The car spun and stopped on the road facing the wrong direction. The codriver Sweeney was trapped in the car and was unconscious. Dr. Mark Galperin, the driver of the car that started three minutes behind Lawrence and Sweeney, expertly handled the situation and provided immediate emergency medical assistance together with the ambulance crew from Ellenville First Aid & Rescue Squad that was stationed at the start and reached the site of the accident within minutes.

Dr. Galperin and Ellenville First Aid & Ambulance Squad attended to the codriver until the Napanoch Fire Department & Rescue Squad arrived with “jaws of life” and could extricate the codriver by cutting off the door bars that are part of the safety roll cage.

Because of the delay caused by the accident and the subsequent investigation by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, which lasted until after lunch, and also because of the uncertainty about the condition of the codriver at the time, the competitors and the organizer jointly decided to stop the event.

The property damage caused by this racing accident was limited to bark torn off the trunk of one tree. This damage was already repaired by Rally New York, Ltd. using a tree pruning sealant.

Rally New York, Ltd. wishes to thank the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, Dr. Galperin, Ellenville First aid & Rescue Squad and Napanoch Fire Department & Rescue Squad for assistance and for expertly handling this difficult situation. Rally New York, Ltd. wishes a speedy recovery to both competitors and hope to see them again soon in our midst.

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