Man Dies After Accident at Smokin’ Wheels Event

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A volunteer official died yesterday from injuries he sustained after being ejected from a vehicle during the Smokin’ Wheels 2016 event at the Guam International Raceway.

Guam – Two men were injured yesterday at the Smokin’ Wheels event that was held at the Guam International Raceway. One of them later died at a hospital from injuries he sustained.

It was supposed to be a fun and thrilling weekend, but for one the participants, life was cut short.

“They were part of our safety crew volunteers and so that’s why we’re trying to find out exactly what happened right now,” said Henry Simpson, one of the organizers for the 2016 APL Smokin’ Wheels event.

The event that draws thousands to the Guam International Raceway for one weekend a year for a full array of motorsports. He was on Mornings with Patti on NewsTalk K57 to talk about the tragedy at their event. Guam Fire Department Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas was also on with Patti this morning to explain what happened.

“One of the racers flipped over and the race officials went out there on a side-by-side–those are those ATV equipment–went out there and they blocked off the vehicles so that the other cars that were coming around the track can see it, which is their normal SOP, from my understanding. Unfortunately one of the other racers didn’t have enough time to avoid it and ended up swiping the side by side and ejecting the two officials,” says San Nicolas.

Both victims were safety crew volunteers who assist with safety operations at the event. San Nicolas says EMTs were already on standby for the duration of the event, given the dangers and risks involved in the sport.

The crash happened around 5 pm. Both men landed about five to six feet away from where their vehicle was parked. Simpson says at first it appeared both victims had suffered non-life threatening injuries.

“We thought everything was okay when they left the track … and unfortunately one of them was … just turned out to be a fatal injury,” says Simpson.

The fire chief says they did not contact the Guam Police Department because they believed what happened was the result of an accident.

“I know there was somewhat of a question whether GPD was called or not for a death investigation. Normally in instances like this, especially when we know what the mechanism of injury is and there’s witnesses that can, with fairly accurate accountability, can give us what’s happening, we kinda determined that there was no foul play, at least from our standpoint,” San Nicolas explains.

Meanwhile, the organizers of Smokin’ Wheels are conducting their own internal investigation in an effort to prevent accidents like this from happening in the future.

“We’re working the event mainly, since we moved to the new track, had set up how we had our safety crews operate. It’d been working well and I think there was some confusion like at the end of the event,” notes Simpson, “that one of the racers, as to where he was in the race and was the race over. We’re still trying to figure that out right now.”

Public safety officials have not released the identities of the victims, however, several people on Facebook have identified the victims as Jesse Salas and Lester Van Meter.

GRMC Spokesperson Kevin Kerrigan says a patient by the name of Jesse Salas died at 7:08 pm last night and a patient by the name of Van Meter was in stable condition as of this afternoon.

UPDATE: The volunteers have been identified by GPD as Jesse Salas, 42, who died at 7:08 pm Sunday; and Lester Van Meter, 48, who was in critical but stable condition at GRMC.