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View from the Tower

By Ken de la Bastide

(May 24, 2011) – A pall has fallen over Anderson Speedway as the track prepares for the biggest event of the year, the 63rd running of the Pay Less Little 500 this coming Saturday.

Veteran driver William Mefford, known as “Willie” to his friends, died as a result of injuries suffered during last weekend’s Anderson Late Model feature event. The cause of the accident is believed to have been a stuck accelerator cable.

Mefford raced for 26 year starting in mini-stocks and progressing to the late model ranks.

A silence fell over the race control tower last Saturday as we all watched in disbelief at how Mefford’s car sped up entering turn three and hit the rubber safety barriers and rebounded back down the track.

For most of us witnessing an accident of any kind, precious moments will elapse as we begin to gather our senses and try to think of a way to provide assistance.

That was not the case for Kenny Wright, race director, and the Anderson Speedway safety crew.

Safety crew members were at Mefford’s car within seconds of it coming to rest. The EMAS ambulance with paramedics arrived within minutes. With clear concise words the safety crew relayed by radio to Wright that assistance was needed from the Anderson Fire Department.

AFD paramedics promptly arrived at Anderson Speedway to provide emergency medical treatment to Mefford.

An air ambulance was called to the track and it landed in the crossover. Later it occurred to me how fully trained the track personnel dealt with the emergency. Race cars and vehicles were moved so the helicopter landed.

The safety crew, AFD and EMAS paramedics and the helicopter crew took every precaution to stabilize Mefford for the flight to an Indianapolis hospital. Before the helicopter left the speedway the decision was made to transfer Mefford to St. John’s Medical Center to stabilize his condition before a transfer could be made to the Indianapolis hospital.

Having served as a medic with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam, it was pleasing to see that everyone involved acted in a cool, precise manner to do everything possible for Mefford.

For those at the scene of the crash the memory of Mefford’s accident will be with them for weeks, months and years to come.

In case no one else mentions it, I want to thank those members of the Safety Crew, AFD, EMAS and the air ambulance personnel for reacting to a tragic situation in a professional manner.

One final thought. Twice it became necessary for track management to ask fans to stop taking pictures with cameras and cellular telephones. Why anyone would want to take pictures of that scene is beyond my comprehension. I would like them to think if it was one of their family members involved in an accident on a highway, would they want people taking pictures.