Wesley Wallin, a 57-year-old race car driver, is dead after a crash at Capital City Speedway on Wednesday night during the track’s first race night of the season.
Police, paramedics and firefighters responded to a 911 call at about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday after a car crashed at the speedway, located at 2001 Speedway Dr. in the west-end suburb of Ashton.
On-site first aid staff began CPR on Wallin before firefighters and paramedics arrived and took over. Firefighters also administered two shocks from a defibrillator before paramedics began advanced life-saving treatment and took him to hospital.
Paramedics said he did not have a pulse when they arrived and that he did not regain one on the way to hospital.
Wallin, who had been racing at the track for eight years, was later pronounced dead.
Driver slumped forward during race, speedway president says
Speedway president Todd Gow said Wallin was racing in the 100-lap Enduro, the final race of the night, when his No. 71 car crashed.
Video footage shows Wallin's head slumped over the steering wheel as he was turning left between two corners, Gow said. Other drivers said they also saw Wallin appear to pass out at the wheel.
The vehicle then travelled over the infield before crashing into a wall. Gow said there were about 20 cars on the track at the time, and that he's surprised no one else was hurt.
"Sometimes racing is a matter of seconds ... and if it was 10 seconds before or 10 seconds after, yeah, he could have just T-boned another car coming down the front straight, and if there were three or four cars behind him ... it could have had the possibility of a large pile-up," Gow said.
Gow said he knew Wallin well. He also said Wallin shared driving duties with his son, and that it was the father's turn to race.
"Wes was a quiet man, a very nice man, one of those gentlemen that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, a very helpful guy," Gow said. "His family is always at the track as well."
Wallin was devoted father, best friend, former spouse says
Wallin had two sons, 18 and 22 years old, with his former common-law spouse, Debra O'Toole. They were married for 18 years, and though they separated she describes Wallin as a faithful friend and devoted father.
"We used to go to the races all the time when we first started dating years ago. We had our favourite spot up in the grandstand. We used to watch the races and take pictures and Super-8 movies; we just loved it," O'Toole said. "We never missed a race night."
O'Toole said she spoke to Wallin just minutes before the fatal race. The whole family was there, including Wallin's girlfriend.
"He said that he'd see me after the race, we were making plans for our son's 19th birthday. He wanted it to be spectacular," O'Toole said.
She stepped away during the race, and when she came back she said she asked someone if they could see the family car.
"They said it went across the infield, and I said, 'Well where is it now?' And my oldest son came running up and he said, 'Mom, it's Wes.' And I ran," O'Toole said. "Something had happened, either a heart attack or something like that caused him to black out, because he never came to."
It was the first race night of the season at Capital City Speedway, which hosts races each Wednesday throughout the summer. Racing will continue next Wednesday, Gow said, with a moment of silence in Wallin's memory.
The Ottawa police collision investigations unit is investigating.
Anyone with information about the collision or witnessed it is asked to call Ottawa police at 613-236-1222, ext. 2481.