British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon killed in 15-car crash

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The Independent Online

The British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was killed yesterday after his car became involved in a 15-vehicle crash on Lap 13 of the Las Vegas Indy 300, flew over another car and landed in a fence just outside one of the turns.

The 33-year-old Englishman, who lived in Florida, was a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, including this year's race. Three other drivers were hurt in the pile-up in at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Weldon was airlifted from the track to University Medical Centre; about two hours later, his colleagues were told of his death. "IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries," IndyCar chief executive Randy Bernard said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today. IndyCar, its drivers and owners, have decided to end the race." In his honor, drivers took part in a five-lap salute around the oval.

Wheldon, who was racing for a first prize of $5m (£3.15m) yesterday, was born in Buckingham in 1978 and educated at Bedford School. He developed an early rivalry with Jenson Button before moving to America to further his career and was later offered a chance by the BMW Formula One team which he turned down. After winning the 2005 IndyCar title, he suffered a number of lean years but seemed to be on the way back up after his Indianapolis 500 victory in May which he dedicated to his mother, who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He was married with two boys aged two and seven months.

Yesterday, Wheldon started at the back of the field but quickly worked his way through the 34-car field before the crash. Drivers had been concerned about the high speeds at the track, where they were hitting nearly 225 mph during practice. Their worries became reality when contact on Turn 2 sent cars flying through the air, crashing into each other and into the outside wall and catch fence.

"I'll tell you, I've never seen anything like it," fellow driver Ryan Briscoe said. "The debris we all had to drive through the lap later, it looked like a war scene from Terminator or something. I mean, there were just pieces of metal and car on fire in the middle of the track with no car attached to it and just debris everywhere so it was scary, and your first thoughts are hoping that no one is hurt."