RACE cars crash into bleachers, killing a driver's mother and injuring 11 others

Monday, July 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AMHERST, Ohio (AP) _ A woman who was killed at an auto race when two cars jumped a guardrail and veered into the stands had urged doctors to let her return to the track after hip surgery so she could watch her son drive.

Virginia Whyel, 64, of Lorain, was sitting in a wheelchair Saturday at Lorain County Speedway when the vehicles hit a section of bleachers, killing her and injuring her great-granddaughter and at least 10 others.

Her son, Scott Whyel, had finished his race, but she and her friends stayed to cheer on other drivers she knew, said her daughter, Gloria Wilson.

``She kept telling the doctors, 'I've got to get back to the racetrack,''' Wilson said.

Four of the injured, including Whyel's great-granddaughter, Kimberly Jones, 14, remained hospitalized early Monday. Jones was in fair condition.

``It happened so quick. I didn't know what happened until I was pinned under the car. I was looking the other way when it hit,'' said Kathy Williams, 45, whose leg was broken. She was hospitalized in satisfactory condition Monday.

Seven others were treated and released from various medical centers. The two drivers were treated at the scene.

Lorain County Sheriff's Capt. Jim Drozdowski said the two race cars collided just before the accident.

``Two of the cars accelerated and bumped and the drivers lost control, went over a guard rail, took out a fence and hit a set of stands,'' Drozdowski said.

The track's operations manager, Rich Rankin, said rain that fell about two hours earlier was not a factor because the track was dry.

There are no walls between the cars and spectators, although there is the guardrail and a 20-foot-high mesh net in front of the grandstand.

The track, about 40 miles west of Cleveland, features mostly local drivers and is in its 53rd season of racing.