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Brian White  Friday, July 26, 2002  11:15 GMT

Experts investigating the death of King’s Lynn junior rider David Nix have found that safety laws at the Norfolk Arena stadium had not been breached.

But they do urge the Speedway Control Bureau to complete trials of air fences “which may prevent accidents like this one happening in the future”.

These are the two main findings by officials from the Environmental Health Department of West Norfolk Borough Council who were called in following the fatal accident on Wednesday, May 1.

Nix crashed when riding for King’s Lynn against Newcastle in a Conference League fixture and died from multiple injuries. No other rider was involved.

His bike went into the fence on the first bend of the track and he was thrown head first into a secondary catch fencing.

Richard Mills, Principal Environmental Health Officer, says: “We have concluded that the track is suitably constructed given its uses for a variety of motor sports. There appears to be no evidence that the concrete barrier (immediately behind the safety fence) contributed to the rider’s injuries, and that striking the outer mesh fence plus the fall to the ground were primarily responsible for the seriousness of the accident.

“We have carried out inspections at the Norfolk Arena in the past and the operators have been co-operative. Improvements for safety purposes have been introduced over time and we are confident from past history that this will continue.

“It is not possible to insist on the perfect track from a safety view point, as the costs involved would be impossible to meet in one go. It is therefore a case of continuous improvement.

“We have lobbied the SCB on one future aspect of track construction, inflatable air fences. They are currently being trialled at Arena-Essex and at Mildenhall.

“The inflatable airbag is attached to the track-side of the inner safety fence. We encourage the swift completion of the assessment of these safety features, as they may prevent accidents like this one happening in the future.

“Our deepest condolences go to the family and friends of David Nix, who have assisted us fully with our investigation.”

The report adds that when the accident happened the bike was going at speed and stopped almost instantly as it went into the fence, which caused the rider to be thrown over the fence and into the outer mesh fencing.

“The air fence has the potential to absorb momentum more gradually from both rider and bike. This would reduce the momentum, and therefore any subsequent four-wheel vehicles from leaving the track; beyond that is a neutral zone formed by the high catch fence, which keeps spectators away fmm the track edge.

“The SCB rules are quite detailed on the matter of track construction and the 5GB issue track Iicences before a track can be used for competition.”

The report also says that the bike ridden by Nix would have been checked by a scrutineer before the meeting and it was subsequently examined by both the police and 5GB vehicle examiners.

“It was found to be without any fault that might have contributed to the accident.”

Norfolk Arena boss Buster Chapman said he would continue to work on making the stadium as safe as possible for riders and supporters.

“We always knew we were well above the safety standards required and we strive to make any improvements that may be necessary,” he added.

“From our point of view, it is a positive report. Everything we have been asked to do we have done.

“Personally I think the only way for speedway to be safer is for the bikes to be slowed.

“They are frighteningly quick off the mark and the sport is now much too fast.”

King’s Lynn promoter Nigel Wagstaff said: “I hear what is being said about air fences and the suggestion that they could be the answer.

“Last year, off my own back, we put in an air fence here towards the end of the season.

“They are now in at other tracks and if it is generally accepted that it’s the right way forward, then we will go along with it.”

Pete Chapman, team manager of the King’s Lynn Conference League side and a friend of the Nix family, commented: “Money must be found from somewhere, perhaps the GPs or from television, to help make the sport safer.

“Air fences could be one answer, but anything that will increase the safety of riders must be looked at.

“I’m not sure if slowing the bikes down would be the answer. In the past 20 years, we have had restrictions on carburettors, on tyres and exhausts, but there will always be someone to find a way around them.

“The thrill of speedway is close and exciting racing at high speed, with that element of danger. That is what attracts the crowds. If we slow the sport down, will we lose that excitement?

“The death of David was a tragedy, but I think it was a freak accident.”

 An official inquest into the death of David Nix will be held before a jury at King’s Lynn on Friday, August 9.

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