State Agency Seeks $16K Fines After Deadly Vegas-Area Track Crash

August 3, 2017

Nevada safety officials are recommending fines of $16,000 against a tourist-oriented exotic auto track near Las Vegas where a Canadian man and an instructor died in a fiery crash of a high-performance Lamborghini in February.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that SpeedVegas had a substandard fire and safety plan and failed to properly train employees in fire suppression, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

However, the violations were not called a contributing factor in the wreck that killed Craig Sherwood of Thornhill, Ontario, and driving instructor Gil Ben-Kely of Henderson, Nevada.

SpeedVegas chief executive Aaron Fessler told the newspaper the company is evaluating its response. It can contest the findings, and OSHA can reduce the fines.

“We are gratified to know that after a six-month investigation OSHA’s findings support what our independent investigators concluded: the track design, safety protocols, instructor training and operations at SPEEDVEGAS are safe,” the track’s chief operating officer, Johnny McMahon, said in a statement. “We further agree with OSHA that there is nothing inherently unsafe in the design or operation of the experience.”

The Review-Journal said the investigation found no standards for track design apply to SpeedVegas, a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) road track course that opened in 2016 several miles south of the Las Vegas Strip. It offers tourists the chance to drive high-performance cars such as Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes faster than 150 mph.

Fessler calls it a driving track, where cars run individually, not a racetrack where cars run at the same time.

Authorities said the orange Lamborghini Aventador that Sherwood was driving slammed into a wall and burned at a curve following a half-mile straightaway that SpeedVegas advertises as the longest at an amateur track without a speed limit.

The course was closed for 12 days after the crash, but reopened with SpeedVegas officials maintaining the track was safe.

An employee driver reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with track owners in April of a legal dispute arising from his unwillingness to sign a safety waiver.

Fessler told the Review-Journal he was pleased the state OSHA report didn’t indicate that the track design or safety procedures were substandard.

The agency citation listed two “serious” violations relating to firefighter training and use of portable fire extinguishers, two “other-than-serious” violations and three regulatory notices.

Inspectors said that because the car burst into flames, the lack of a properly trained fire brigade was not considered a contributing factor to the crash.

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