February 17, 2009 in City

Monster Jam in Spokane to follow ‘usual precautions’

By The Spokesman-Review
 

No new precautions have been taken to protect monster truck fans at the Spokane Arena this weekend following the death last month of a 6-year-old spectator in the Tacoma Dome.

“The usual precautions” will be in place at the Monster Jam show, said Kevin Twohig, executive director of the Spokane Public Facilities District. “We have looked at our relationship with the company putting this on and asked them to assure us they have taken every precaution.”

Twohig said the company, Feld Motor Sports, of Aurora, Ill., “seems very aware and professional. We certainly double-checked the insurance companies and indemnifications.”

Feld Motor Sports spokeswoman Amy McWethy said Monday that the company had not changed any safety procedures or protocols as a result of the Jan. 16 death of Sebastian Hizey, of Puyallup, who was struck by flying debris while attending the Monster Jam with his father in Tacoma.

“The reason is we feel that the protocols we have in place do work,” McWethy said.

She said what happened in the Tacoma Dome had never happened before.

A monster truck called the Natural High, driven by Gary Schott Jr., was spinning doughnut shapes in the mud when a Frisbee-size piece of metal flew up and struck the boy’s head before injuring a nearby man.

An investigation of the accident is continuing.

A police report suggests the metal ring was part of a device to keep the truck’s driveline from separating from the vehicle if it breaks, according to the News Tribune of Tacoma.

McWethy said Natural High, which has appeared at numerous shows since 2004, has been pulled from the circuit and is being independently inspected.

The truck had passed inspection before the Tacoma show, McWethy said, as required under U.S. Hot Rod Association guidelines. The association is an entity of Feld Motor Sports.

During each event, a safety technician holds a remote ignition interrupter, or kill switch, that can shut down a vehicle in the event of a problem.

However, a police report said that shortly before the incident in Tacoma, there was a problem with Natural High’s interrupter, which was later replaced, the News Tribune reported.

McWethy said each track on the circuit is designed to accommodate the particular venue and rows closest to the track are blocked off to keep spectators at a safe distance.

The Hizeys were seated about 20 to 25 feet above the Tacoma Dome floor.

Twohig said that because the floor of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is smaller than that of the Tacoma Dome, the monster trucks are not moving as fast.

“We are not as likely to see high speeds or flying debris,” he said.

There will be four Monster Jam shows at the Arena Friday through Sunday.

The Associated Press has reported that from 1992 to 2007, at least five people have been killed and more than 40 others have been injured at monster truck shows. Most of those injuries were caused by out-of-control trucks.

“What happened in Tacoma was an isolated and tragic accident,” McWethy said. “We are looking into the matter and hope to have it resolved as soon as possible.”

Contact Kevin Graman at kevingr@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5433.

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