Sep 12, 2014

Investigation into Kevin Ward Jr. death complete


The investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr. has been completed and results will be announced late next week, the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Ward was struck and killed Aug. 9 by a sprint car driven by NASCAR star Tony Stewart during a dirt race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York.

In a statement Thursday, the sheriff's office said the "thorough investigation" included "a forensic video enhancement recently received from the New York State Police Laboratory in Albany."

The local district attorney's office has been meeting with Sheriff Philip Povero throughout the process and will announce "what action will be taken regarding the investigation" next week.

The official statement:

The Ontario County Office of Sheriff has completed its investigation into the death of Kevin A. Ward, Jr., which occurred August 9, 2014, at the Canandaigua, New York, Motorsports Park. The entire thorough investigation, including a forensic video enhancement recently received from the New York State Police Laboratory in Albany, has been submitted to the Office of the Ontario County District for review. The District Attorney's Office, which has been meeting throughout the investigative process with members of the Sheriff's Office, will make a statement late next week advising what action will be taken regarding the investigation.
Ward, 20, was spun out by Stewart during the dirt car race. He got out of his car under caution to show his displeasure and a couple of drivers avoided hitting him as he walked down the track before he was struck by Stewart's car. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of death later was ruled as blunt force trauma.

At the time of the incident, Povero said Stewart was ''fully cooperative'' and that there was no evidence of criminal intent.

However, the investigation has continued in the weeks since the incident and Stewart sat out three races to grieve.

Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup champion, went into seclusion following the tragedy, missing races at Watkins Glen International, Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway before returning to his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for the Aug. 31 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stewart, 43, first met with the media in Atlanta on Aug. 29 ahead of Sprint Cup practice. He took no questions but read a 2-minute, 30-second statement that SHR spokesman Mike Arning said had been written by the driver, who is famous for moonlighting in sprint car races in his spare time:

This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally," Stewart said in an occasionally halting speech and soft-spoken voice that cracked a few times. "This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life. With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine.

I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, and his sisters Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them. The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. Everyone's saddened with this tragedy.I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it's been overwhelming.

I've taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time. I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers, however I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally, I'm not sure if I could answer them anyway. We're here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect. There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions.

NASCAR issued Stewart a waiver to participate in the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he were to win one of the remaining qualifying races -- in his return at Atlanta or the final regular-season race at Richmond International Raceway.

Stewart finished 41st at Atlanta, crashing out early after slamming into the wall twice before coasting into the garage just past the halfway mark. He was never a real threat at Richmond either, cracking the top 10 on a couple of occasions before finishing 15th.

Stewart won championships in 2002, 2005 and 2011. He has missed the Chase in 2006, 2013 -- when he suffered a broken leg in a sprint car race accident in Iowa -- and 2014.

PHOTOS: Tony Stewart through the years



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