Report in luge death recommends venue-specific training
Published Monday, October 4, 2010 11:14AM PDT
The coroner's report into the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run in Whistler, B.C., was released Monday, and recommends more venue-specific training and safety audits of luge courses.
The 21-year-old Georgian was flung from the track on Feb. 12 after losing control during the fatal run, and struck an exposed steel pole, travelling nearly 145 kilometres per hour at the time of impact.
In his report, B.C. Coroner Tom Pawlowski ruled that the young athlete's death was accidental, and that he was killed by multiple blunt force injuries to his head caused by collision with a low wooden barrier and the post. No foreign substances were uncovered by a toxicological analysis.
Kumaritashvili was killed during his sixth run on the track since Olympic training opened at the beginning of February.
After the crash, critics argued that the Whistler track was too fast and difficult. Pawlowski wrote in his report that he would leave it to sliding sport experts to determine the safety level of the course, but added, "February 12th proved that this track was capable of producing a serious incident when unfavourable factors converged."
He found that the high speed of Kumaritashvili's sled, combined with his inexperience on the track and other "technical challenges" overwhelmed the luger during the fatal run.
Pawlowski's report includes three recommendations, the first of which is for the Whistler 2010 Legacies Society to complete a safety audit for the track.
He also recommended that the international luge and bobsled federations review their processes for approving sliding course and consider introducing independent safety audits for track design and construction.
"As much as the athletes accept that risk exists in their sport, the organizers, regulatory bodies and venue owners must ensure that no effort is spared to anticipate the unforeseeable as far as safety is concerned," Pawlowski wrote.
Finally, he suggested that the International Luge Federation (FIL) require athletes to complete more training on specific tracks before events, particularly when the course is newly constructed.
The FIL said in a report earlier this year that "no single reason" accounts for Kumaritashvili's death.
That report found that he did "commit driving errors," and that he ran into trouble on the 15th curve in the track, where he "hung on to the curve too long."