The death of Dan Wehaldon was caused by a catch fencing pole that destroyed his helmet and hit his head.
Dan Wheldon, the two-time Indy 500 winner, was killed from a head injury he suffered when his car collided with a catch fencing pole during the IZOD Las Vegas race last October. Those findings were confirmed in an investigation conducted by the IndyCar. In a lengthy and detailed report issued by IndyCar, it was found that Wheldon had suffered two distinct head forces during the accident, and was subjected to very high G-forces during the first head force.
However according to the calculations, those were not strong enough to cause injury. The second one was involved with a physical impact with a pole supporting the catch fence and that caused Wheldon's death. The pole intruded into the cockpit and made contact with the drivers' helmet and head and that was Wheldon's only injury, according to the report. The helmet was damaged at the lower interface surface of the helmet and the visor. "The impact damaged the structure of the face portion, or chin bar, of the helmet and dislodged the visor from its anchor point on the right temple."
"It resulted in fracturing of the helmet on the face portion as well as damage to the attachment points of the visor on the right side. This impact produced non-survivable blunt force trauma injuries to Dan's head. Dan's injury was limited to this head injury," claims the report. Wheldon was killed at IndyCar's last race of the season, only his third race in 2011. He was racing for a $5 million bonus if he could win the race starting from last place on the grid. The accident happened during the first few laps of the race as Wheldon was still lagging far behind the leaders and trying to make up ground.
Before the race, drivers complained that the Las Vegas Speedway was too small and narrow for IndyCar high speed racing machines and that the track was too crowded with racing cars, though no step was taken to alleviate the problem. Next year's Las Vegas race had already been canceled by IndyCar. 17 years ago, Ayrton Senna, the three-times F1 champion, was killed in a similar incident from a similar injury. His Williams-Renault racer collided with a safety wall at high speed, a suspension rod got loose, hit at the helmet, penetrated it and killed the Brazilian driver.