Updated 2:40 p.m.
NASCAR star Tony Stewart struck and killed 20-year-old race car driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race Saturday night.
Stewart spun Ward out during the Canandaigua Motorsports Park sprint car race in upstate New York on Saturday and Ward angrily got out of his car and stepped into the track. Stewart’s vehicle struck Ward and sent him sliding down the cement, witnesses to the race told USA Today.
Ward was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
Local police said that the 43-year-old Stewart was “fully cooperative,” and that the incident was not being investigated as a criminal matter. Police are gathering interviews and video evidence of the incident, and are awaiting the results of an autopsy.
Stewart released a statement through his racing team Stewart-Haas Racing, NBC reports.
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” he said. “It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
A video uploaded on YouTube purports to show the incident. (Warning: it’s disturbing.)
Early eyewitness accounts corroborate the video. When Stewart’s car struck him, Ward had exited his car and was pointing at Stewart’s car as he approached on the ensuing caution lap, witnesses said.
“Tony came around … the back end slid out, and he definitely caught him – I couldn’t tell if it was with the front or the back of the car,” said witness Adam Dulski. “The body made contact with the car and went sliding across the track. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Stewart had intended to compete in a NASCAR race on Sunday but pulled out early in the day, the Associated Press reports.