Probe: Track didn't cause Olympic accident
Saturday, February 13, 2010; 2:13 AM
WHISTLER, British Columbia -- It took only three seconds.
Sliding faster than ever in his life, 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili had one turn left in his final Olympic training run. Flirting with 90 mph on a $100 million track pushing speed to the outer limits, the luger from the republic of Georgia tilted his head slightly forward as his sled climbed the high-banked wall.
His last move.
Kumaritashvili lost control, crashing into the wall entering the final straightaway. His body went airborne, arms and legs flailing over the opposite side of the track, his upper body smashing into an unpadded steel pole as his sled continued skidding down the track. It all took just 48.9 seconds, start to crash.
Paramedics began working on Kumaritashvili within seconds, quickly starting chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, all to no avail.
The IOC said Kumaritashvili was pronounced dead at a trauma center in Whistler.
Less than an hour after the accident, a representative from each team was told the grim news.
With that, tears began flowing across the close-knit sliding world and throughout the Olympic family.
"I have no words," a teary International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said, "to say what we feel."
Within an hour of the accident, an investigation was opened. Security officials closed access to the crash area and the remainder of the track for the rest of the day, and all further training runs scheduled for the day were canceled.
Vancouver organizers and the International Luge Federation said they would raise the wall at the exit of the last curve on the course, where Kumaritashvili lost control, and make other unspecified changes to the ice before reopening the track Saturday.
They called the accident "extremely exceptional," however, and said it was triggered by Kumaritashvili's failure to compensate for coming late out of the next-to-last curve, not by "deficiencies in the track."