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Justin Wilson's death 'a freak accident', inquest hears

AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

The father of a British IndyCar driver who was fatally injured during a race in the US has described it as a "freak accident".

Justin Wilson, 37, was struck by a piece of flying debris while taking part in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania last August. Race leader Sage Karam crashed his car into a barrier, scattering debris on to the track in the closing stages of the race.

Drivers then swerved to avoid the debris but Sheffield-born Wilson was hit on the helmet by a piece of Karam's car. He was transferred to a nearby hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but died of his injuries a little over 24 hours after the accident.

At a brief inquest in the boardroom of Northampton General Hospital, coroner Anne Pember read a statement from Wilson's father, Keith, who described the event as a "freak accident".

It said: "The car leading the race crashed and was driving at over 200mph. The driver was unhurt but debris from his car flew high into the air and a large, heavy piece hit Justin on the head as he approached the scene of the accident.

"Justin was unconscious, he was extracted from the car and rushed to hospital. He underwent surgery and was kept on a life support machine until the following day. The decision was then taken to switch off the machine and Justin was pronounced deceased. Justin was a kind, caring and loving son who is sadly missed by all of his family and friends."

Mrs Pember then concluded that Wilson's death was accidental. Wilson formerly raced in Formula One for the Minardi and Jaguar teams and was competing for Andretti Autosport at the time of his death.

Wilson's death reignited the debate about cockpit protection in open wheel motor racing. Last week Ferrari tested a device known as Halo as part of the push towards introducing some form of cockpit protection in Formula One by 2017.