Spectator injured as metal bar clears safety fence at Riverhead Raceway

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | A freak accident sent one spectator to the hospital Saturday night, the opening night of the 2012 season at Riverhead Raceway.

A spectator at Riverhead Raceway was struck in the chest by a metal “nerf bar” Saturday night after it jarred loose from the side of a race car during a collision and flew over the safety fence and into the crowd, witnesses said.

The incident occurred around 9 p.m. after two cars collided between the first and second turns of one of Saturday’s opening night races, a Raceway staffer said. Driver Eddie Brunnhoelz Jr.’s car stalled out and was hit from behind by a car driven by Ronnie Silk, the staffer said.

The injured spectator, whom Riverhead Police declined to name, was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center by ambulance with what appeared to be a non-life threatening injury.

“It caught him real good,” said Chris Boehle, a long-time Raceway staffer who witnessed the incident. “I saw him when they were putting him in the ambulance and the left side of his chest was all inflamed.”

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | he nerf bar that flew over the tall fence at Riverhead Raceway and struck an unidentified spectator in the chest.

The nerf bar, a tubular device fitted to the side of the car, flew about 10 feet in the air, clearing the fence.

Fifth-year Raceway staffer, Heather Maxwell, and Mr. Boehle, who has worked at the races for over two decades, said this is the first time they’ve ever seen this type of incident at the raceway.

“I’ve seen cars climb the wall and hit the fence, I’ve seen buses flip over and hit the wall, but I’ve never seen anything that wasn’t rubber come over the fence,” Ms. Maxwell said.

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