NASCAR driver Tony Stewart will not face criminal charges in the crash that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on August 9, a grand jury in Ontario County (N.Y.) ruled Wednesday afternoon, following two days of hearings.
“This week an Ontario County grand jury has been meeting to hear testimony and review evidence gathered in the Tony Stewart matter, relating to the death of Kevin Ward at the Canandaigua Motor Speedway on August 9, 2014. The grand jury has completed its investigation,” said Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo.
“During the course of the grand jury presentation, approximately two dozen witnesses testified. These included a number of race car drivers, racetrack employees and volunteers, two accident reconstruction experts, medical personnel, and a number of police officers. In addition, the grand jury reviewed a number of photographs and video recordings, as well as other documentary evidence. After listening to and questioning all of the witnesses, and reviewing all of the evidence, the grand jury has determined that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes; his case was ‘No-Billed’ by the grand jury.”
Michael Tantillo also said marijuana was detected in Kevin Ward’s system during his autopsy. He said the levels were enough to “impair” Kevin Ward’s judgment.
Kevin Ward Jr. died in a crash during an Empire Super Sprints Series race at the half-mile upstate New York dirt track. Tony Stewart was inside of Kevin Ward when he drifted to the outside and Ward made contact with the wall.
Under caution, Kevin Ward got out of his car and walked toward Tony Stewart’s car, gesturing at the three-time NASCAR champion. As Tony Stewart’s car approached Kevin Ward, Stewart’s right-rear wheel hit Ward, who was thrown into the air and died as a result of the contact.
The Office of the Sheriff announced September 11 said the investigation was completed and the case was being forwarded to the District Attorney.
A statement issued by the Sheriff’s Office September 11 said: “The entire thorough investigation, including a forensic video enhancement recently received from the New York State Police Laboratory in Albany, has been submitted to the Office of the Ontario County District for review. The District Attorney’s Office, which has been meeting throughout the investigative process with members of the Sheriff’s Office, will make a statement late next week advising what action will be taken regarding the investigation.”
Then on September 16, the District Attorney said the case would be turned over to the grand jury.
Tony Stewart missed the first three Sprint Cup races after Kevin Ward’s death, returning at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29. At Atlanta, a visibly distraught Tony Stewart read from a prepared statement. He did not answer any questions.
“This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life,” said Tony Stewart.
“With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine.”
Tony Stewart thanked his friends, family and the NASCAR community for standing by him.
“I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” he said.
“It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates, and I miss being back in the race car. I think getting back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”
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