Child dies after being struck by flying debris at monster truck show
A three-day monster truck show at the Tacoma Dome will go on as planned today and tomorrow following the death of a child and injury of a man at Friday night's opening event
Seattle Times staff reporter
The 6-year-old Puyallup boy who died after being struck in the head by a metal object at a monster-truck show at the Tacoma Dome was a "kid's kid" who loved trucks and dirt.
Sebastian Hizey was shy around strangers but was fun-loving and had been looking forward to his first truck show where he didn't have to wear earplugs, said Marty Dwyer of Puyallup, the former husband of Sebastian's stepmother. The shows were a bit too loud for him when he was younger but he got used to the noise as he grew older, Dwyer said.
Promoters of the truck show say they haven't determined what caused the metal object to fly into the grandstands Friday night, striking Sebastian's head.
Sebastian then fell into the lap of Dwyer's 10-year-old daughter, who began to yell, "Sebastian, Sebastian," Dwyer said. That's when people saw that the boy was bleeding.
Sebastian was pronounced dead at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office reported Saturday. An autopsy will take place today.
Sebastian's family issued a statement saying the boy suffered severe brain trauma when he was hit by a 7- to-12-pound, Frisbee-sized metal ring from a truck.
The statement said the family "is grief-stricken and angry."
Another spectator, a man who was not identified by authorities, was also injured by a flying object and was taken to a hospital.
Feld Motor Sports, which promoted the event, said in its own statement: "This type of incident has never happened before in the history of Monster Jam events. All of us at Feld Motor Sports and all the Monster Jam drivers and crew extend our deepest sympathies to the families involved. We will continue to investigate this incident and will provide additional information as it becomes available."
The accident happened during the first of five planned Monster Jam shows at the Dome through Sunday. The Dome's administrative office said all shows would go on as scheduled.
Spokesmen for the Tacoma fire and police departments said they don't know what caused the accident, which occurred around 9:40 p.m. "It was a mechanical problem or a failure and parts blew into the stands," Tacoma Police Sgt. Mark Fulghum said.
Paramedics who were standing by — standard practice at major events — treated the victims, performing CPR on the child and transporting both victims to local hospitals, Fire Department Assistant Chief Dan Crotty said Saturday.
"The only thing I know at this point is there was some kind of accident that happened on the field and debris went into the stands."
City officials issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened and our hearts go out to the families. ... The Tacoma Dome takes the safety of its customers very seriously, and we are working with Feld Motor Sports, the promoters of Monster Jam, to investigate the accident and ensure the safety of guests at the remaining shows this weekend."
After the accident Friday night, police took photographs and witness statements, and gathered any objects that might have gone into the stands, city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said. He said at least one piece of metal "flew off the truck."
City officials and Feld Motor Sports representatives met Saturday to talk about how to insure the safety of spectators at the remaining events, McNair-Huff said.
Bill Easterly, Feld's senior director of operations, said it wasn't clear what caused the accident and declined to say what object or objects struck the victims. The truck involved was taken out of use while the company investigates, he said.
Monster Jam, which has taken its big-truck shows around the country for about 25 years, was acquired by Feld last September.
Christine Moe, who was at the event, told KING TV a truck came apart while heading toward the end of the grandstands during the freestyle competition right after intermission.
"Parts were falling off and a piece flew up and hit a little boy," Moe said.
Witnesses said a red truck was doing doughnuts — driving in tight circles — when debris flew 30 to 50 feet over a safety barrier and into the stands. Some told the TV station they had to throw cups off the stands to get the attention of medics.
It was not clear Saturday whether any public agency will conduct its own investigation. Police spokesman Fulghum said he doesn't expect a full police probe because it was "more an industrial-type accident."
Elaine Fischer, spokeswoman for the State Department of Labor and Industries' safety program, said her agency wouldn't likely get involved because it wasn't a workplace-safety issue or one of the two kinds of public-safety issues it regulates: amusement park rides and go-carts.
Reporter Janet I. Tu contributed to this report. Material from The Associated Press is also included. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published Jan. 17, 2009, was corrected Jan. 17, 2009. An earlier version incorrectly spelled the victim's name.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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