There are reports that the investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr. and Tony Stewart's involvement may be coming close to an end.
The investigation into the drivers death includes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver as it was Stewart’s dirt track race car that struck and killed Ward following an on-track incident.
According to reports, the Ontario County Police Department in New York State is in the final stages of its investigation. However, Officer Nathaniel Ross, the OCPD's Senior Communications Officer, stated that that there is no timetable yet for its completion. When asked if there was a timetable set for ending the investigation Ross simply replied: "Not that I'm aware of."
Stewart, a full time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and team co-owner, was competing in the dirt track race on August 9th at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Upstate New York. The event was not related to NASCAR or sanctioned by NASCAR. Stewart, like many drivers, often compete in local events.
Civil Suit Possibility
Even if the investigation clears Stewart of any wrongdoing there are some who believe that both Stewart and the Track could be hit with Civil Lawsuits. Meri Van Blarcom-Gupko is an attorney at Wiley Malehorn Sirota & Raynes in Morristown, N.J. He specializes in motorsports-related legal issues. He recently stated that Stewart could face a wrongful death civil suit.
"Stewart would contend that Ward's conduct leaving his car and going onto the racing surface contributed to his death," Van Blarcom-Gupko said. "Unfortunately, if Ward had remained in his vehicle, the outcome would be different and that has legal implications. New York is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that even if Ward is deemed to have negligently contributed to his death, it does not serve as a bar to recovery. Rather, whatever damages are awarded will be reduced in proportion to Ward's negligence. Thus, regardless of whether the jury allocated anywhere between one percent and 99 percent of the negligence on Ward, his family could still recover the remaining percentage attributed to Stewart."
Van Blarcom-Gupko also stated that the track itself and possibly even Stewart’s sponsors could be hit with lawsuits.
Following the Wreck
Ward was racing Stewart when he crashed into an outside wall. Ward then got out of his car and walked down the track while cars zipped by. He kept walking until he apparently spotted Stewart’s car and began gesturing. Stewart's right-rear tire struck Ward, who then died while being transported to the hospital.
Since Ward’s death Stewart has not spoken in public about the incident. He has also missed every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race since using substitute drivers in his place. The last driver to fill in was veteran racer Jeff Burton. The day after the death of Ward, Stewart issued a brief statement.
"There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It's a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I've decided not to participate in today's race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy."