Driver error contributed to Georgian luger’s death, report states

A report by the International Luge Federation has concluded that a series of events, including driver error, caused the crash that killed Republic of Georgia athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili only hours before the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

“Nodar did commit driving errors starting in Curve 15/16 … that resulted in him leaving the track and subsequently hitting a post causing blunt force trauma to the base of his skull,” the report stated.

Inspectors could not find any flaws in the ice near the bottom of the course, and technicians said his sled met all standards set by the luge federation (FIL). The report notes that neither track experts who monitored more than 30,000 runs nor computer models “foresaw the possibility of the event that happened.”

Kumaritashvili, 21, had completed 16 runs from the men’s start at the Olympic track at Whistler and was on his final training run when he died.

Video replays indicate Kumaritashvili’s run was “routine” as he exited Curve 15, only seconds from the finish line. He entered Curve 16 — a banked section nicknamed Thunderbird — late and tried to muscle the sled to the right side of the track instead of letting it ride high.

But at 89.4 mph, powerful G-forces pulled the sled to the left and he lost control, his right shoulder dropped and his spiked glove on the same side struck the ice. Those two involuntary reactions made the sled pivot into the right wall at “an exceptional angle” and then “catapult” the slider off the track and into a metal support post, the report stated.

Next month, the British Columbia coroner’s office is expected to release its report on the accident.

David Kumaritashvili told the Associated Press that his son should not have paid for his mistakes with his life. “Yes, any sportsman could make a mistake, but it shouldn’t result in a tragic and fatal accident,” he said.