Olympic luger's death 'unforeseeable': report
A Georgian luger's death at the Vancouver Olympic sliding track in February was an "unforeseeable" accident resulting from driver error, high speed and other factors, the International Luge Federation says.
Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, died Feb. 12 during a training run on the day of the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. He lost control of his sled at an estimated 145 km/h, was thrown from the track and struck a metal pole.
"What happened to Nodar has been an unforeseeable fatal accident," FIL secretary general Svein Romstad said in a report released Monday.
"After an in-depth analysis, we concluded that there was no single reason, but a complex series of inter-related events which led to this tragedy."
In a 20-page report, FIL noted that Kumaritashvili was ranked 38th in the world at the end of 2009, which earned him a spot at the Olympics.
The report said the Georgian slider had 26 runs on the track at Whistler between November 2009 and the time of his death. He had six runs on the track between Feb. 10 and the day of his death.
The report also noted that because speeds at the Whistler track were faster than originally calculated by the design firm, the FIL asked the organizers for additional training days.
The "progressive" training saw competitors make three runs from the novice start position, two runs from the junior start and one run from the lower women's start before moving up the track to the men's official race start.
During the fatal training run, Kumaritashvili made a mistake and was late on his exit from the 15th corner of the track, leading him to be late entering the 16th turn and low on the track, the report said.
The FIL said Kumaritashvili apparently tried to steer a low line through the corner, but momentum likely caused him to lose control as the sled rode toward the top of the corner.
The report said Kumaritashvili then put the spiked glove on his right hand down on the ice, while gravitational forces pushed down his right shoulder, causing a "radical steering motion." The sled then headed for the track wall on the other side at an "exceptional" angle.
The FIL said that when a sled hits a wall, the normal outcome is that either the runners on the sled break, which absorbs some of the impact and causes a crash, or the sled and slider bounce off the wall. In both cases, the slider remains on the track.
"Nodar appears to have hit the wall at an exceptional angle that caused the sled to compress, rather than break or bounce off. This resulted in the sled serving as a catapult when it decompressed, launching him and the sled into the air," the report said.
David Kumaritashvili, the luger's father, said a mistake by a slider should not result in death.
"Yes, any sportsman could make a mistake, but it shouldn't result in a tragic and fatal accident," the father said. "He flew off the track. No matter what mistake he had committed, he should not have flown off it. Security measures must be provided."
John Furlong, the president of the Vancouver organizing committee, called the report a "starting point to ensuring that, through the lessons learned, such a tragic incident may never happen again."
"The FIL has made it clear in this report that this accident's circumstances were indeed unique," he said.
with files from The Associated Press