A report conducted by the International Lugers Federation concluded that the crash that killed Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the Olympics was an “unforeseeable fatal accident” caused by a number of factors, according to The Associated Press.
Kumaritashvili was killed during a training run on Feb. 12 hours before the opening ceremony at the Vancouver Winter Games when he lost control of his sled near the bottom of the track, flew over a wall and slammed the back of his head on a steel beam next to the track. He had been clocked at 89.4 mph milliseconds before the crash.
The report blamed driver error, an unexpected sled reaction and course design for the fatal crash, the first at a sanctioned luge track in 35 years.
It said that Kumaritashvili exited the 15th turn of the 16-turn course too late, throwing him off his line as he entered the final turn. As a result, when he tried to stay low on the curve, he was overcome with too much G-force and started losing control.
He tried to compensate by reaching for the ice with his right hand in order to slow down, but this caused him to make a sharp right turn into the inside wall, the report said.
Normally in a crash like that, the sled’s runners will break or the driver will be thrown off the wall, according to the report. Kumaritashvili, however, was launched upward and across the track.
"No athlete would have control in dealing with this type of 'catapult' effect," the report said.
As he sailed across the track, Kumaritashvili’s hips cleared the outside wall by mere inches. Had the wall been a little higher, he would’ve stayed on the track. The report said that if the crash went as expected, though, the wall would have been high enough.
"Neither the computer simulations nor the technical experts who [certified] the track … foresaw the possibility," it said.
Speed, the report suggested, was the biggest reason for the unusual catapult effect.
"The question is, why did he go out of the track? Part of that is the speed," USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi told the AP. "Lesser speed, he wouldn't have gotten such potential energy and he wouldn't have gone above the line of the wall."
Kumaritashvili’s father, David, agreed.
"No matter what mistake he had committed, he should not have flown off [the track]," he told the AP.
After the crash, the start of the course was lowered to reduce speeds for the remainder of the Olympics. The FIL has also told officials in charge of the 2014 Sochi Games that it will not certify any track that allows speeds to exceed 84 mph, according to the AP. That’s more than 5 mph less than Kumaritashvili’s clocked speed.
FIL secretary general Svein Romstad dismissed concerns that Kumaritashvili, who was ranked 44th in the world and was not considered a medal contender, was not qualified to race the course.
"He deserved to be at the Olympic Games," Romstad told the AP. "There's no doubt in my mind he was absolutely qualified."