He spoke too early in racer's death, doctor says

Earnhardt seat-belt opinion now called too speculative

Auto Racing

April 13, 2001|By ASSOCATED PRESS

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The physician who said a faulty seat belt might have been responsible for Dale Earnhardt's death at the Daytona 500 admits that he was quick in blaming the restraint system.

"I was trying to answer the questions the media and the public had to the best of my ability, and I think I speculated more than I should have," Dr. Steve Bohannon told the News-Journal of Daytona Beach. "Sometimes you should just say it's too early to speculate."

Bohannon, the director of emergency medical services at Daytona International Speedway, withdrew his assumption after a court-appointed medical expert said restraint failure didn't play a role in Earnhardt's death Feb. 18.

Dr. Barry Myers, a Duke University professor who made his report public earlier this week after looking at Earnhardt's autopsy photos late last month, is "more qualified to determine the cause of death," Bohannon said.

Myers' report was the culmination of an agreement between the Orlando Sentinel and Dale Earnhardt's widow, Teresa.

Four days after the crash, Bohannon raised the theory of a faulty seat belt system as a possible reason why the seven-time Winston Cup champion died. At the time, Bohannon, 43, was the only doctor to see the autopsy photos.

The same day Bohannon announced his theory, Teresa Earnhardt successfully sued to have the autopsy photos sealed.

Autopsy photos used to be public in Florida, but Gov. Jeb Bush signed a measure late last month making it a felony for a medical examiner to make the photos public.

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