Tony Stewart Cleared by Grand Jury In Racing Death
Tony Stewart is reportedly in the clear.
According to a report on TMZ.com, the superstar NASCAR driver will not face charges from a grand jury in the death of fellow sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. Prosecutors in upstate New York said the grand jury had finished hearing testimony regarding Stewart’s role in the incident and its decision would be announced later Wednesday.
Ward was killed Aug. 9 when a car driven by the three-time NASCAR champion struck and killed him during a dirt track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. The 20-year-old Ward, who had climbed from his car to confront Stewart, died of blunt force trauma.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo looked at the evidence and could have brought charges or dropped the case himself, but said last week he was taking the matter to a grand jury that was convened this week. Experts said Stewart could be charged with second-degree manslaughter under New York law if prosecutors believe he “recklessly caused the death of another person,” with negligent homicide another possibility.
Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart’s car appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. His father later told a newspaper there was “no reason” for the death given Stewart’s skills and experience.
Sheriff Philip Povero asked spectators to turn over photos and videos of the crash as investigators worked to reconstruct the accident. Among the things being looked at were the dim lighting, how muddy it was and whether Ward’s dark firesuit played a role in his death, given the conditions. In submitting his findings to the district attorney, Povero said they included a “forensic video enhancement” from state police.
After Ward’s death, NASCAR announced a rule that prohibits drivers from climbing out of a crashed or disabled vehicle — unless it is on fire — until safety personnel arrive. The series also cleared the way for Stewart to make its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with a win, despite missing the three races, but he didn’t make the 16-driver field.
There have been very few criminal prosecutions stemming from incidents that occur during competition.