Calgary motorcycle racer dies after track crash south of Edmonton
'I hope he is remembered as the passionate, happy, joyful person that he was'
A motorcycle racer who died after crashing his bike Sunday afternoon south of Edmonton is being remembered as a skilled athlete and a charismatic friend.
Calgary's Sean Henderson was fatally injured at Castrol Raceway during a race organized by the Edmonton Motorcycle Roadracing Association. Henderson later died in hospital.
"He was always happy, excited, open," said Henderson's longtime friend Julien Camanini.
"I hope he is remembered as the passionate, happy, joyful person that he was. I feel like it's the same things that people always say, but in this case, whoever you ask, they will tell you the same thing.
"He was just an all-around awesome dude."
Henderson had turned 29 on Saturday, celebrating his birthday with fellow racers who had travelled from across the west to participate in the last racing weekend of the season.
Camanini said he and Henderson met through the racing community years ago, and raced with the same team, the Savage Sloths.
'Loved by everybody'
His teammates gathered together in Calgary Monday afternoon to have a drink and remember him, Camanini said.
"Sean is the last person we would hope to leave that early," Camanini said. "He was really loved by everybody."
Leduc RCMP were called to the track around 2:30 p.m. Police could not say whether other bikes were involved in the crash.
The cause remains under investigation. An autopsy will be performed, RCMP said.
The crash happened shortly after 1 p.m. in the final race of the season, said Jon Bullee, president of the Edmonton Motorcycle Roadracing Association.
Henderson crashed during the first lap, with less than two minutes on the clock.
He was the only rider who went down, Bullee said.
"We opened the sport bike race right after lunch and on the first lap, Sean was involved in an accident on the exit of the final corner. He was treated by our medical staff that we have on hand at all times, right away, within seconds.
"He was taken to hospital in serious condition and I was notified toward the end of the day that he didn't make it."
Bullee doesn't know what went wrong, but said there is little room for error when reaching speeds up to 200 km/h.
"All racers understand that motorcycles and motorcycle racing are inherently dangerous and the risks when they go out on track are severe," Bullee said.
"It's a sport that goes from moment to moment, lightning fast, and the consequences of even a tiny mistake in one moment can last a long time."
Henderson was an "incredible man" and his death has come as a shock to the tight-knit racing community, Bullee said.
"We're all kind of stunned by it right now," Bullee said. "He's going to be missed by everyone in this community.
"He just had a lust for life. He was just one of those guys."
'A feeling of horror'
Camanini, who works on the team's technical crew, was in the pit when Henderson crashed. By the time he made it to the track, paramedics were already on scene.
He didn't want to speculate on what went wrong.
"It's just a terrible feeling when you have someone who goes down, but it's even worse when it's someone you know and care about that is down," Camanini said.
"It's a feeling of horror and just hoping the guy will get up."
Henderson, who worked as a health and safety manager in the construction industry, had been road racing for at least three years.
He had a natural skill on the track, Camanini said, and quickly found his place in the racing community.
"It's much more than just a sport for a small group of people," Camanini said.
"You have a second family of people that love the same thing that you do, love the thrill of it, the skill, the speed and strength it takes.
"We all know there are dangers and anything can happen, but it's such a good sport that it outweighs these things and the family aspect of it is really what creates that balance."
Colin Huggins, Castrol Raceway general manager, said Henderson's death is the first fatality involving an accident in the track's 26-year history.
Castrol Raceway, formerly known as Capital City Raceway Park and Capital Raceway, is located off Highway 19 in Leduc County, just north of the Edmonton International Airport.