Probe of track death will go to grand jury
A grand jury is looking into the death last year of a 9-year-old girl who aspired to be a professional racer. Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he asked the 2011 Mesa County Grand Jury whether it is interested in conducting an investigation, and the grand jury said it is.
“I cannot tell you anything about who may or may not be the ‘targets’ of this investigation, nor about what charges the grand jury may or may not be considering,” Hautzinger said in an e-mailed statement Friday.
Stacey Cook, a co-owner of the Grand Junction Motor Speedway, where Taybor Duncan died in a collision Aug. 15 with a flatbed trailer on the track, said he was familiar with the grand jury investigation, but he hadn’t been told of any criminal liability in the case.
“I’m kind of confused why it would go to that,” Cook said. “It’s just kind of the whole process. They just want to make sure they cover their bases.”
Cook, the speedway and several others are defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by Taybor’s parents Monday in Douglas County District Court. The lawsuit claims Taybor’s death was a “felonious killing.”
The civil case had nothing to do with the district attorney’s investigation and subsequent submission of the case to the grand jury, Hautzinger said.
“I can say that my office has been carefully reviewing the case for quite some time,” Hautzinger said in the statement. “Indeed, we dedicated the entirety of an attorney staff meeting in December to a careful review of all aspects. My staff was unanimous in the opinion that this was a case where the opinion and viewpoint of a grand jury could be invaluable.”
There is no deadline by which the grand jury must complete its work, Hautzinger said, but the process will be a painstaking.
“I would expect that this grand jury will thoroughly investigate every aspect of this incident and will consider any and all criminal charges which are potentially appropriate,” Hautzinger said.
The case will be complex, and the investigation could take weeks, if not months, he said.
Duncan was running practice laps and was going about 50 mph when the collision occurred. She had crested a hill and struck a flatbed trailer, which was being hauled by an all-terrain vehicle driven by a track employee.
The ATV and trailer were behind a hay bale where the ATV driver couldn’t see the track or be seen by the racers, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges organizers failed to position flaggers around the track to warn drivers of dangers or redirect them. Race officials also had no communications equipment for such emergencies and had no medical personnel or equipment at the track, according to the lawsuit.
There was confusion on the track as well, because drivers of different divisions, classes and clubs were on the track at the same time, the lawsuit says.