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I took the opportunity at the presentation to share my perspective of the accident Jannie and I had on Saturday at the Mountain Trials so that it was a matter of record rather than speculation, and to ensure that the very important lessons that came out of it were shared. I think it is worth sharing the experience and those lessons with the broader audience (particularly as it is getting broader airplay). I cannot speak confidently on behalf of some of the things that Jannie did or didnt do, only he knows for sure, and even then, there are things I cannot remember clearly, and I am sure he will not either.
This was an accident that did not need to happen. As Glenn Wallace points out, we were not going to make up 10 minutes, effectively the fight for the rally lead was over and not within reach by the time we started up again.

It was an accident that resulted in injuries that need not have occurred. If we had both been fully belted in, with all gear in place, we would have both walked away little worse for wear, and discused it together over a beer that night.

So, what went wrong? We were leading the event, third run over Princeton Cutoff. Notes were good, Janie had driven exactly to the plan all day, well within himself, and had not put a wheel wrong. 6k into the stage, the car started to 'drag' at the back, Jannie thought we had lost a wheel. We pushed forward looking for somwhere to pull off - there werent many options - which becam an issue later. Then the car simply snapped right, stopped and would not move. We had come round a R4 behind some trees, over a crest and into a L5. We were parked half on and half off the road, over effectively a fast blind crest. I went back with the triangles and 'OK' sign, and stood on the crest. Several following competitors confirmed that if we had not done this, they would have hit us.

After about 10 cars had gone by, Jannie had found the problem (stone in the right rear caliper) and fixed it, so we were able to go. I took the triangle back to the car - and we were both conscious that we had to move the car from where we were or car 12 would have run into us. I put my helmet on, Jannie had his on. His came off in the subsequent roll, so whether it was done up, or whether Jannie had thought he had it done up but had missed the 'catch' on the way back through (I have done this before, and with a Peltor where the strap velcros back on itself, it is not immediately apparent) I dont know. We hopped in the car. I put on my lap belts, and I am sure I saw Jannie put his on. Again, in hindsight, I cant 100% confirm this, but in my view it was his still trying to connect in shoulder harnesses as we moved down the road that in part caused us to go off. Makes me think the lap was on. If so, it is was not fully 'clicked' in, because it certainly flew open in the accident.

We went about 250-300m down the road from where we had stopped, went into a R3+ too fast. There was a 10 foot drop from the road into a sloping paddock, we went over and rolled three times. I remember concentratng on keeping my arms inside the car, and wondering how many more times it would roll, or what we would hit next. I was asked by a range of people if I was frightened, the answer is no, you simply dont have time for it. What did frighten me was that when we stopped, I looked around to check if Jannie was ok, and he wasnt there. A very freaky feeling.

I got out, and found Jannie about 20 metres from the car. His helmet was another 5 metres away. He was conscious and groaning, and said he was hurt and needed help. I went back to the car and got the red cross, then flagged down the next car, and the process went from there. As everyone is aware, I essentially walked away with little more than some neck stiffness. Janie was both not so lucky, and extremely, extremely lucky. He has a range of injuries, but it could easily have been so much worse.

So, were we dumb? Yep, in many ways. Neither of us are novices, both of us know better than to be in the car on a stage not fully geared up and belted in. We were 10 mins down, so another 30 seconds would have made little difference. We both should have acknowledged this, and simply made sure that we took the time to adjust before we got going. We didnt.

Equally, can I rationalise what happened? Yep. We were over a blind crest, and if we hadnt moved, the next car would have plowed into us. The nature of the stage was that there was precious little room to pull over anywhere safely (not saying that we couldnt have done so, but it was not that readily apparent) And yes, we just wanted to get going. Does it excuse us? No way.

So what are the lessons you can take from our experience? As has already been pointed out, you dont have to look far to see others who do what we did - start at WRC level and work down to people you know who have done it, perhaps even you. The lesson from our experience is DONT! At the end of the day, there will be more events. Cars are rebuildable and replaceable. You are not. Your family and friends cannot replace you. Think about it.

Other lessons.
- There are two in the car. You are both responsible. There is a kill switch if one wont listen.
- I raised an eyebrow at the requirement in Canada for compulsory First Aid certificate (which I have, but had not seen it mandated before). The fact that everyone at the scene knew First Aid probably saved Jannie from more significant injury, and made us effective when St Johns and then the ambulance arived.
- Check restraints. A number of items came loose in the car - including a heavy fire extinguisher and box of small parts. Either could have caused a very nasty injury even if we had both stayed in the car. Both spare wheels were ejected. Have a look at your car - our solid tug at these things during scrutineering is not representative of the forces in a rollover.


I hope that this gives everyone a very clear picture of what happened and why. I know that Jannie and his family are supportive of me sharing this - like me they want all those that were at the event, and all those who read this to take the lesson to heart, and keep it in mind when you are faced with the same situation. Make some different decisions to the ones we did.

Lastly, as I did on Saturday night, let me just thank the rallying community. It is a wonderful group, it is one of the reasons I love this sport and it it the same around the world at all levels. To my fellow competitors who stopped to help, bringing fire extinguishers, water, picking up our gear which was strewn around. The St Johns representative was fantastic, the organisers and stewards the same. And to those who caught up with me on Saturday night, or have since touched base with me to talk about it, to express their concern, to show their care, you are what makes this sport what it is. I know Jannie (and Janusz senior) would join with me in saying thank you for your support.

Both Jannie and I will be very open about what happened, it may be a few weeks or so before he can take a call, but after that I know he will be delighted to do so. I am also happy to discuss it, answer questions or whatever if it adds value and helps share the learning experience. Dont hesitate to contact me.

We both look forward to being back 'Doin it sideways in the dirt' with you in the near future.

Scott

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Thank you, Scott, for your detailed account.

I would like to express again the best wishes of the Mountain Trials organizing group and all of the volunteers for Janusz's speedy recovery, and thank everyone who worked hard stabilizing him, treating his injuries on site, and getting him prepared for transport to the hospital. We all know how much worse it could have been.

Paul Westwick
Clerk of the course, Mountain Trials
 

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Thank you Scott -

It's refreshing to see the details explained, and laid out for all of us to read to help all of us learn from an unfortunate incident. When accidents are covered up and kept secret, it doesn't do anyone any good because no one can learn and most of the "stories" are based on hearsay and rumours. Hearing about the items that came loose in the car is also much appreciated...I will be making double-sure that I secure everything well as I build my car.

Get well soon Janusz!

Warwick
 

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Scott -
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this accident. Let's just hope that everyone can learn something from this and that a similarly needless accident doesn't happen again.

Keith
 

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Scott, let me add my thanks for your frankness and hope that you and Janusz both feel better soon.

Anyone have any ideas for how to deal with getting going on a narrow stage after retreiving the triangle(s) but with cars coming up behind? I guess one option would be to proceed at slower than transit speed with hazards on, but you still get back to it being hard to control a vehicle while trying to do up a harness...

I know that feeling of "a car is sure to be coming soon" when you're in the process of deploying or retrieving your triangle. Ain't fun.
 

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>Scott, let me add my thanks for your frankness and hope that
>you and Janusz both feel better soon.

My thanks and best wishes as well.

>Anyone have any ideas for how to deal with getting going on
>a narrow stage after retreiving the triangle(s) but with
>cars coming up behind? I guess one option would be to
>proceed at slower than transit speed with hazards on, but
>you still get back to it being hard to control a vehicle
>while trying to do up a harness...

One option is for the driver to move the car to a less exposed/dangerous location (even just to somewhere with a better sightline to it) while the triangle is still out - the codriver has to walk a bit further, but it significantly reduces the chance of being hit when unprotected by the triangle. Yes it takes more time, but if you've put out triangles you've lost a lot of time already.

>I know that feeling of "a car is sure to be coming soon"
>when you're in the process of deploying or retrieving your
>triangle. Ain't fun.

I've had a car miss my door by a very small margin as I was getting into the car after retrieving the triangle - it definitely isn't fun.

Adrian
 

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>Scott, let me add my thanks for your frankness and hope that
>you and Janusz both feel better soon.
>
>Anyone have any ideas for how to deal with getting going on
>a narrow stage after retreiving the triangle(s) but with
>cars coming up behind? I guess one option would be to
>proceed at slower than transit speed with hazards on, but
>you still get back to it being hard to control a vehicle
>while trying to do up a harness...
>
>I know that feeling of "a car is sure to be coming soon"
>when you're in the process of deploying or retrieving your
>triangle. Ain't fun.

My codriver came up with an idea after we lost 10 seconds stopping for a car that was just getting going a few years back. We came up on a car with no triangles or OK sign, and no people outsides, so we had to stop. Subsequently he has pitched it the SCCA, and even wrote it into the supps for 100AW. When picking up the triangles, turn your hazards on. This indicates the next drivers that you are a) OK, and b) moments away from proceeding. This would work in most situations, except the one above where you have a blind crest situation. Since it's impossible to right a procedure for every scenario, ultimately we have to rely on the common sense and good judgement of the teams. For teams that lack common sense and good judgement (as mine does at times), we need to reinforce it with stories such as what happened to Jannie. The true tragedy of this accident will be if we fail to learnn something from it.

Dennis Martin
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> One option is for the driver to move the car to a less exposed/dangerous location (even just to somewhere with a better sightline to it) while the triangle is still out - the codriver has to walk a bit further, but it significantly reduces the chance of being hit when unprotected by the triangle. Yes it takes more time, but if you've put out triangles you've lost a lot of time already.

Princeton Cutoff is an *extremely* narrow and twisty stage --- there was maybe one place to do this on the way out but very hard to judge how far it is from the point they were at when they had the problem.... and then you have a co-driver walking miles up a narrow stage unprotected to catch up with the car...
 

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Good thought on turning on the flashers. It should be the first thing you do when you pull over but I know I've stopped to change flats and never turned them on (my co-driver may have once or twice). Even if you forgot to turn them off, that should not really be an issue (how often does more than 1 car catch you that might be confused concerning you running at speed with the flashers on). Must remember to put flashers on when applicable.
 

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from my post in another thread, regarding getting moving safely...

"I'd suggest, and will make it practice from this point forward, that the triangle is not removed until the driver is in the car, COMPLETELY belted and the car has been started. Even as a co-driver, if the driver is secure in the car, I can deal with belting at slow speed until we can pull off in a better spot ... **if the driver is in control of the car.**"
 

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>Princeton Cutoff is an *extremely* narrow and twisty stage
>--- there was maybe one place to do this on the way out but
>very hard to judge how far it is from the point they were at
>when they had the problem.... and then you have a co-driver
>walking miles up a narrow stage unprotected to catch up with
>the car...

Has anyone ever questioned whether this is a stage that should not be runned?

Because I was out of the scene in the last few years, I have not run that stage before but from what people I have talked to describe, it might be a questionable stage when it comes to rallying it.
And believe it or not, a lot of rallies in a lot of countries discard certain roads due to their unsafe nature.

I have seen organizers in the past that, although well intended, they decide to run roads that are just not suitable for a stage.
Here in calgary we have a couple of roads that look like they are great for a stage, when carefully considered, they are not due to the size of drop offs they have, so we resist our temptation and we do not run them. After all there is a limit to what "any" safety equipment can do and for some circumstances there is "no" safety equipment thet would ever save you from death or seriuos injury.

Maybe the competitors should have a second look at the maximum risk and minumum safety margins of some of those BC roads.

And don't forget; all of us drivers have a say in it, we are the ones paying for the broken cars and the ones puting our lives on the line so don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Cheers
Jorge
 

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Jorge -

Princeton is a fantastic stage road in my opinion, however, I was discussing this topic with someone earlier this week... should Princeton Cutoff be used in REGIONAL rallies? I think it's fine for National level, but perhaps it's a little unforgiving for first-time drivers in regional rallies? Not much room for error.

That said however, I don't think it's THAT dangerous especially now that we are using pacenotes. Teams now have a chance to see the stage and drive accordingly. There have been quite a few "offs" on that stage, but no injuries until Janusz's accident (and that wasn't really a result of the stage being dangerous). That stage is also very good for spectator access.

FWIW,
W
 

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>Jorge -
>
>Princeton is a fantastic stage road in my opinion, however,
>I was discussing this topic with someone earlier this
>week... should Princeton Cutoff be used in REGIONAL rallies?
> I think it's fine for National level, but perhaps it's a
>little unforgiving for first-time drivers in regional
>rallies? Not much room for error.
>
>That said however, I don't think it's THAT dangerous
>especially now that we are using pacenotes. Teams now have
>a chance to see the stage and drive accordingly. There have
>been quite a few "offs" on that stage, but no injuries until
>Janusz's accident (and that wasn't really a result of the
>stage being dangerous). That stage is also very good for
>spectator access.
>

Warwick;

I take your word for it, as I said before I have not run that stage so all you guys have to make that call on that one.

However, that is not what I was refering to. I only talked about roads with large enough drop offs as an example of circumstances where the "safety equipment" will just no longer work or is irrelevant, maybe it was the wrong analogy,

What I was trying to say is that some roads might have some inherited features that make them too risky and we should not wait until something bad happens. When I said that, I was not refering to Janusz accident and the spot where he went off, I was refering to the description of the road many have made.

If a road is so narrow (and some say gets narrower every year) that you would be blocking it if you stop with a mechanical failiure, put you at risk if you stop to change a tire or even walk against traffic to retrive or put up triangles, then that road is just to narrow to be safe.
So, again, sorry for any misunderstanding, in general I was refering to "ANY" road feature that might make a road unsafe; narrowness, drop offs, etc. and in such cases I feel it is the duty of senior drivers to point out such risks
I hope no-one takes any of this personaly, I just want all of us to be proactive rather than reactive once something bad happens.

I also do not agree personally with a road being bad for Regional drivers but OK for National drivers.

If a road has a bad feature (one which can easily create a safety problem or an un-survibable situation) it can catch the Regional competitors by their inexperience just as well as it can catch the National ones and "presumably" more experienced drivers by their more "to the limit" driving style... if not sure ask Tom Mc Geer;) I am sure he is glad Rocky did not have any such roads.

Once again, I am just playing devil's advocate, if the road is ok, we are just entertaining ourselves with this forum, if not, this is just food for though.

Cheers
Jorge
 
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