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Coroner recommends safety audits following Olympic luge death

The coroner's report on the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games makes recommendations to improve safety at the Whistler track and for luge races in general.

“I find that Nodar Kumaritashvili died in Whistler, British Columbia, on February 12, 2010, of multiple blunt force injuries sustained in a collision with fixed structures, in a luge incident,” wrote coroner Tom Pawlowski in a report released today.

“The collision was a result of an interaction of factors including high speed, technical challenges and exacting physical forces with the associated physiological stresses, which converged at a critical moment, overwhelming the athlete and causing the irretrievable loss of control of the sled.

“The conglomerate of all the risk control measures, physical and otherwise, failed to anticipate this incident or mitigate the outcome. The relative lack of experience Mr. Kumaritashvili had on this challenging track set a backdrop for the incident and was a significant disadvantage, as far as safety was concerned, for the athlete entering the high pressure environment of the Olympic Games.”

Pawlowski found Kumaritashvili's death to be accidental.

He recommended a comprehensive safety audit for the Whistler track, that sport officials require more detailed safety audits on all tracks, and that athletes be required to take more training runs ahead of major competitions such as the Olympics on the track where they will be racing.

The coroner declined to recommend a public inquiry, saying it was unlikely to add new information.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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