Byline: Mark Fogerty
AN INVESTIGATION by international motor racing authorities has determined a Queensland volunteer official killed during the Australian Grand Prix in March was standing in the wrong spot.
A confidential report on the fatal incident at Melbourne's Albert Park has cleared race organisers, concluding that the tragedy was the result of a ``freak'' accident.
Marshal Graham Beveridge, from Winfield, north of Bundaberg, died of chest injuries after being struck by a flying wheel from the wreckage of a two-car collision early in the Formula One race.
``He was in an area where he shouldn't have been at the moment of the accident,'' said a high-ranking F1 official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
``It's very sad for the marshal. It sounds unkind, but that is the truth of the matter. He was in an area that he was not supposed to be.''
The Sunday Mail has learned that an investigation by the Geneva-based International Automobile Federation (FIA), motor sport's world governing body, found the Australian GP organisers complied fully with F1's stringent safety standards.
The FIA can not release details of its investigation until the Victorian Coroner conducts his inquest, but ruled out any negligence by race organisers.
``Nothing from the investigation and the report highlighted any particular fault of the structures (safety barriers) or anything like that,'' FIA spokesman Francesco Longanesi said.
According to the FIA, Mr Beveridge, 51, a father of two, was killed in extremely unlikely circumstances as a result of a high-speed collision between Canadian Jacques Villeneuve and German Ralf Schumacher.
Villeneuve's BAR-Honda slammed into the back of Schumacher's Williams-BMW at about 300km/h as they braked for the third turn of the lakeside street circuit, vaulting Villeneuve's machine into the concrete safety barriers.
The impact sent one of the car's wheels hurtling through a small access hole in steel safety nets which are designed to protect marshals and spectators.
It hit Mr Beveridge who FIA sources said should not have been so close to the track.
``What emerged is that the accident was a freak,'' an insider said. ``The marshal, sadly, was not supposed to be there because he was a spectator marshal.''
According to the FIA's findings, Mr Beveridge -- a safety official with a distinguished record of service over many years at Australia's leading races -- was not one of the trackside workers designated for the third-turn marshals' post.