NASCAR driver Tony Stewart has been accused of running over and killing a fellow competitor during a race Saturday in upstate New York.
Kevin Ward Jr., 20, was pronounced dead shortly after being allegedly struck by Stewart's car and dragged a short distance at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Deadspin reports that among the many eyewitnesses who took to the Internet, some felt that the crash was retaliation and not an accident.
As investigators continue to look into the incident, what charges could Stewart potentially face in the wake of Ward's death?
Murder on the Racetrack?
NASCAR isn't known by any to be a safe sport, but those more familiar with racing have weighed in on what may have happened that Saturday night. Speaking with Sporting News, racer Tyler Graves notes that he knew Stewart could see Ward and "when Tony got close to [Ward], he hit the throttle." Graves went on to explain that when you hit the throttle on a sprint car, the car "sets sideways," which is likely why Ward was struck and dragged underneath Ward's back right tire.
Sporting News reports that Stewart was not arrested, but he has been cooperating with the Ontario County, New York, sheriff's office. Although no charges have been filed, if the allegations of intentionally trying to clip Ward with his car are believed, Stewart could potentially be facing murder charges.
In New York, a defendant may be found guilty of second-degree murder if his or her acts cause the death of another person:
- With intent to kill;
- By recklessly engaging in conduct with creates a grave risk of death (with a depraved indifference to human life); or
- By committing a specific felony.
Stewart may be found to have been acting extremely recklessly on the racetrack when he encountered Ward, but it is up to prosecutors to determine what, if any, criminal charges to pursue.
Wrongful Death Suit Is Possible
Regardless of Stewart's criminal worries, Ward's family may still wish to sue for wrongful death in civil court. Despite the dangers inherent in racing, Ward's loved ones may accuse NASCAR, the racetrack, or Stewart of acting negligently in causing his death.
In a separate incident, the family of a jockey who was killed by a horse was able to secure $7.8 million in a lawsuit against a Pennsylvanian race track in April. Since Ward was only 20 years old at the time of his death, his family may expect even more in damages if a potential suit is successful.
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