Father of stockcar driver who died at Mildenhall Stadium said his son ‘knew the risks’

Steve Newman, who died at West Row.

Steve Newman, who died at West Row. - Credit: Archant

The father of a stockcar driver who died after crashing at a west Suffolk race track wept as he said his son knew the risks involved in the sport.

A jury yesterday took just over 45 minutes to rule the death of 36-year-old Steve Newman during a saloon class British Championship final at Mildenhall Stadium, West Stow, had been accidental.

The inquest, which took place over two days at the Farmers Club in Bury St Edmunds, had been told multiple times that the incident on June 16, 2012, had been a “freak accident”.

The inquest heard how Mr Newman’s car had rolled several times after coming out of a corner and hitting the barrier.

Other drivers travelling behind Mr Newman then collided with the stockcar, causing a roll cage to fail and allowing contact with the driver’s seat.

Yesterday the inquest, which watched three videos of the incident, heard from Stephanie Grayling, environmental health officer at Forest Heath District Council, who said both Mr Newman’s car and the fence he collided with had met the relevant specifications.

However, she added that as a result of the crash the Saloon Stock Cars Association would be investigating whether any improvements could be made to the roll cage and placement of the driver’s seat.

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Previously the inquest had been told that East of England Ambulance Service had sent a student paramedic to the scene with an emergency technician after a 999 call from the track. A private paramedic, hired by RDC Promotions who staged the event at Mildenhall, was already at the scene.

Witnesses described how it had taken about 25 minutes for Mr Newman to be cut from the wreckage and carried to the waiting ambulance.

But the 36-year-old from Boston, Lincolnshire, who had received a traumatic head injury, could not be revived.

Speaking after the inquest Mr Newman’s father, Mick, said he was pleased with the accidental verdict.

“I’m a former racer myself and we all know the rules and unfortunately it was just a freak accident. We all know what’s involved with racing and we all take that risk.”

He added: “Obviously, it’s harder when it’s my son; you never think it’s going to happen. But we are pleased with the verdict.”

Mr Newman’s father also said he was pleased there would be an investigation into whether safety improvements could be made in the world of stockcar racing.

“Obviously there will be a lot learnt from the accident,” he said.

The 67-year-old, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, revealed he hadn’t been at the track on the night of the accident, but had spoken to his son on the phone.

He explained: “Steve rang me after the first race, which he won. We kept in contact, whether I went to a meeting or not, he always rang me and let me know how he had got on. He rang and said ‘Yeah, I won that one’, I said best of luck for the next one. He said ‘I’ve got to go now’ and that was the last I spoke to him.”

A statement from East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh apologised for being unable to send a paramedic to Mr Newman. He said: “It is our belief that there should be a paramedic on every possible response and we are now working tirelessly to recruit more so that there can be one on every ambulance and response car.

“Although we sent one ambulance, there was already a senior paramedic and two experienced EMTs on the scene with private ambulance company Medicmart 999, which would have had clinical responsibility at the scene.”

The statement said the trust had “improved focus” on escalating serious incidents and were recruiting more paramedics and “up-skilling current emergency care assistants” together with getting more ambulances on the road to improve patient care.

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