The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

May 22, 2011

Speedway racer dies after crash

Hood flew up during race

ANDERSON, Ind. — A race car driver has died from injuries sustained during a crash Saturday night at Anderson Speedway.

Madison County Coroner Ned Dunnichay confirmed Sunday that driver William Mefford of Knightstown died from blunt force injuries to his head and chest.

Mefford, 49, was racing at the track Saturday when a mechanical malfunction caused him to crash his car, according to Anderson Speedway track owner Rick Dawson.

Dawson said he watched the crash, and noticed that just before hitting a barrier, the hood of Mefford’s car flew open and the vehicle began accelerating.

“He was going down the back stretch and he had just passed a car and was pretty much clear. His hood flew up for some reason. He was halfway down the straightaway and the car accelerated like the throttle had struck,” Dawson said Sunday.

Dawson said Mefford hit the “soft barriers,” which are meant to protect vehicles. “He hit them so hard.”

Dawson said the average speed of a vehicle in the race is about 75 mph. He estimated that Mefford accelerated to a speed of between 75 and 100 mph.

Dawson said it appears that Mefford’s safety equipment was functioning properly.

“You can put whatever you want up there to stop the cars, but when you’re going that fast and your body stops suddenly like that, it’s such a tremendous shock to the body,” he said.

Dawson said Mefford’s death is the first fatal crash involving a driver since he bought the track in 1997.

In 2008, track worker Roy Hiatt was struck and killed by a race car during a race.

Kokomo Tribune reporter Ken de la Bastide witnessed the crash, and said it appeared that Mefford was trying to stop the vehicle before the crash.

De la Bastide said he saw smoke coming from the tires as Mefford attempted to slow the vehicle.

Mefford was taken into an ambulance at the track as a helicopter landed on the track’s infield.

Dawson said Mefford was taken out of the helicopter and sent to Saint John’s Medical Center because emergency responders could not stabilize Mefford for the flight.

He died at Saint John’s.

Dawson said the loss is felt by everyone associated with Anderson Speedway. “This racetrack is like a big family, from my staff, my racers, and all my fans.”

Mefford’s family could not be reached Sunday.

Contact Brandi Watters: 640-4847, brandi.watters@heraldbulletin.com       

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