Originally created 07/30/05

Safety policies for race in focus



Organizers of the annual Augusta Southern Nationals plan to re-evaluate safety procedures in the wake of an unforeseen storm that toppled trees and tents and sent 12 people to area hospitals during the event's final round July 17.

"We haven't had a chance to meet yet, but when we do, we're going to reassess our procedures, talk to the medical people, the sheriff's office and others who are involved in this," said Dayton Sherrouse, the chairman of the drag boat races held at Augusta Riverfront Marina.

The severe thunderstorm that abruptly ended the races surprised everyone - including safety chairman Ken McDowell, who was on the phone with weather officials at the time of the storm, Mr. Sherrouse said.

"They told us it was a little cell that would pass within a few minutes," he said. "We never knew what was coming."

Safety procedures already in place at the races have been fine-tuned over two decades, he said.

"We have two ambulances on site at all times, the trauma unit from MCG there every year and a lot of safety personnel," he said. "We thought we were doing everything we needed to do, but when you have no warning, it's hard to guard against it."

Injuries were mostly cuts and bruises, he said, although one race fan got a broken arm, and a woman who was inside a portable toilet tossed by storm winds received a broken collarbone.

Race officials were unable to calculate a dollar amount for damages because so many of the vendors whose tents were destroyed were from out of town.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.