Valdosta Daily Times

February 14, 2014

Officials asking how bobsled crashed into worker

By TOM WITHERS and TIM REYNOLDS
The Associated Press

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Olympic officials are trying to determine why a worker on the track used for sliding sports at the Sochi Games was in the path of a speeding bobsled that crashed into him, causing leg injuries and a concussion.

A forerunning sled sent down the track to make sure conditions were suitable for two-man training crashed into the worker Thursday at the Sanki Sliding Center, an incident that could have been far worse and immediately harkened memories of the on-ice death of a Georgian luger at the Vancouver Games four years ago.

The unidentified worker was airlifted to a nearby hospital. There was some confusion regarding his injuries; some officials said one leg was broken, others said both were fractured.

Sliding officials who reviewed video of the incident saw three men working near the finish line, two of them safely scurrying over the wall as the bobsled neared. The subsequent investigation quickly revolved around suspicions that the workers could not hear any announcement that a sled was coming down the track.

One possibility was that the man, who was using a motorized air blower, simply may not have been able to hear any announcement.

“We still do not know why he was in this zone and exactly what happened,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told The Associated Press shortly after the crash.

Given that the sled had not crossed the finish line, it probably was not braking. But it’s also unclear how fast the sled was going, since it was only a forerunner, which precedes training sessions and competitions to make sure things like the timing system are operational. Regardless of its speed, any sled at that area of the track would generate massive force.

“According to standard procedure, a warning signal was given ahead of the forerunners’ bob beginning its run on the track,” Sochi organizers said in a statement released more than three hours after the accident. “The reasons for the icemaker’s presence on the track after the warning signal are currently being determined.”

Bobsled training was held as scheduled, albeit with a delay of about 35 minutes. The inaugural Olympic luge relay also took place at the venue later Thursday night, without interruption or incident.

Following the crash, workers replaced part of the lighting system bolted to the roof over the section of the track where the incident took place. Other workers cleaned small plastic shards of debris from the ice.