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Bathurst spectator explains jumping fence to rescue driver

THE spectator that jumped the fence at Mount Panorama on Friday to rush to the assistance of driver Keith Kassulke says he made an instant decision to assist – and he’d do it again.

Kassulke’s MARC II V8 crashed heavily at the Chase during final practice after an apparent brake failure. He was later cleared of major injury.

Motorsport Australia is now investigating how and why a trackside spectator was the first on the scene to assist Kassulke.

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The spectator, who spoke with V8 Sleuth today and preferred to remain anonymous, says he couldn’t have lived with himself had he not intervened.

“Standing there to watch someone potentially burn is not something I could live the rest of my life with,” he told V8 Sleuth.

“Would I do it again? I would do it again, it’s human life.

“I respect the rules and regulations that MA (Motorsport Australia) has in place, and I understand their concerns about spectators jumping the fence, but I knew about the safety systems and how to release them.

“I don’t condone anyone that doesn’t know anything (about race cars) to jump the fence.

“I wasn’t trying to be a hero and drag him out of the car, but just to get the door open, get everything out of the way, make sure the car wasn’t alight, I (physically) supported him and kept him calm until the medics arrived.

“I think it’s easier dealing with a spectator leaping the fence than a Coronial inquest.

“If that car had caught fire … no one was there to get him out, he wasn’t getting out on his own, he couldn’t have got that door open.

“The time it would take to get someone to him … (It was) just a bad situation.”

A Motorsport Australia spokesperson provided V8 Sleuth with a statement this afternoon relating to the incident.

“Motorsport Australia is aware of, and is looking into the circumstances of how and why a spectator entered a live circuit following an on-track incident,” it read.

“Event organisers have installed temporary fencing overnight to prevent access in that area.

“As we have said before, under no circumstances should spectators enter the circuit at any location.

“Not only are they putting themselves at risk, but they are also putting the safety of others at extreme risk. This is simply not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Medical and recovery crews on the scene following Kassulke’s crash. Pic: David Jowett

The spectator, who has a history working in motorsport, says he made a split-second decision to leap the fence to go to Kassulke’s assistance.

“Once it came to a stop, I realised he was in a lot of trouble,” he said.

“I could hear Keith banging on the door. I knew what needed to be moved, so I just opened the door, dropped the window net, unplugged the radio and water bottle then removed the steering wheel and Keith kept saying he wanted to release his belts.

“A flaggie turned up with a radio, I could see fluid in the car that was definitely oil and fuel, so once I established he was moving his arms and legs, he released his own belts and I had him in a position if it ignited then he was in a position to instantly get out.

“The medical guys arrived and I gave them a debrief of what was happening, that he was conscious and communicating, the medical guy shook my hand and thank me for what I did and a few flaggies did the same thing.

“I climbed back over the wall, and we went and found his family and team to let him know he was OK.”

The spectator isn’t the first to leap a trackside fence to come to the air of a driver following an accident in Australian motorsport.

A pair of spectators jumped the fence in the same spot in 2019 during Bathurst 12 Hour practice to extinguish a fire after a Porsche had crashed in the Chase.

John Bowe famously was assisted from his Falcon by a spectator that jumped the fence after a huge rollover at Phillip Island in an Australia Touring Car Championship round in 1996.

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