Photographer Hit By Race Car, Prompts Discussion About Safety While Shooting Motorsport Events

For those of us that photograph motorsport events throughout the year, this short video may be rather disturbing. In the clip, a photographer can be seen standing on the outside of a sharp turn as he photographs an oncoming race car before he's hit by the car as it loses control.

Disclaimer: the following contains graphic footage and language that some may find disturbing.

The race car loses traction and slides out of control, hitting the unfortunate photographer. The graphic footage shows the photographer being thrown through the air and into the woods. The photographer was reported to have broken both his scapulae and lacerated his liver.

While capturing an exciting action image with mud flying may have been this photographer's goal, it’s never advisable to position yourself in harm's way. I’m not able to tell if the photographer was wearing any sort of safety vest (not like it would have helped in this case) or anything identifying him as an event official, but he was clearly on the other side of the caution tape obviously used to hold back the other spectators. It's unclear if safety officials warned him to move before this terrible accident occurred.

Action sports and auto racing can be exciting and rewarding genres to be a part of, but risking your life for an image is something else entirely. I've photographed desert racing events throughout the southwestern United States for years. Over that time, I've witness photographers breaking the rules set forth by safety officials just to try to get a shot they probably wont even be able to sell. Is this risk worth it?

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24 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

I'm glad the photographer is alive. My family runs a towing business and we've had some scarily close calls while out working; you simply can't afford to ever lose awareness or stop being five steps ahead of where the car can potentially go.

Todd Boyer's picture

Shooting motorsports at a track where there are designated photography areas is typically pretty safe. Shooting at a rally, motocross, or as you mentioned, desert racing, you have to position yourself to get great shots while keeping safety in mind. This guy was just in really bad spot, the outside of the corner, and didn't seem to react at all when the car was out of control. We have to keep our head on a swivel, pay attention, and be ready to duck out of the way.

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Yeah, it's important to always have an escape route. And to be ready to use it.

Or at least position yourself behind a tree and have someone else to warn you when a car goes off. In a rallye on snow it's just a matter of time that someone will go off the track.

as much as I feel bad for photographer this one is on him (sure it is unfortunate accident) .. nothing driver can do
For those who brakes the rules .. mind they are not risking just their lives (that are their to risk) ..

Gerd Moors's picture

Looks to me the photographer is in a 'red' zone or a breaking zone... that's asking for trouble.
As a motorsport photographer you've always want to capture the action there where it is... but your own safety needs to be your primary concern.
For rally events like this one, I see a lot of people always standing at the wrong places... Very difficult for the organization but it's the reality.

Last year I visited the WRC Rally of Corsica. On the last stage I visited I saw people (with children) and several photographers standing in a red zone. While the helicopter flew by for a security check, they hid under the trees and when the helicopter disappeared they jumped right back to the place in the red zone.

Common sense is a great value... but some doesn't seem to bother if it's dangerous or not... Gladly nothing happens...

Douglas Turney's picture

Yeah sometimes people go out of their way to avoid being safe. Even evading people there to make sure everything is safe. Selfish if you ask me.

As someone who has photographed Indycar racing at both oval and road courses over 25 years, how it is that rally racing is still a viable format, given the obvious liability issues, is beyond me. It's enjoyable to watch, but the fans, thrill junkies, and others that position themselves in insanely dangerous positions and do things like try and play dodge-em' with the cars are just begging for a Darwin Award.

As for the photographer in question. Since the shooter was in a taped off zone and there were course workers nearby I think we can assume that the person was more than a mere spectator. However, he was practicing ZERO common sense safety practices for autoracing photography. Rule Number One: Keep something between you and the cars. This is a MUST if you're on the outside of a turn where the laws of physics are not your friend. If he had only been a few feet over they could have shot from around the trunk of that tree. If you're going to be in such a hazardous area, look for a tree, a berm, a mound, Armco or something that doesn't just rely on your reflexes to prevent great personal harm. At least you can give this guy partial credit on his self-preservation skills: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlGjKsPMt64

That's a very relaxed dude! He still could easily have been hit by some part flying off.

Douglas Turney's picture

I photograph both the Monster Energy Supercross series and the Lucas Oil Motocross series for various publications. I can say from experience at numerous races that even the areas that seem save can be dangerous. The photographer has to assume they are at risk anytime they are near the track and take all steps they can to REDUCE the risk of being harmed. Of course some locations like the outside of turns are higher risk but even along side of straightaways can be dangerous. A fellow photographer had her knee damaged when she was hit by a motorcycle coming off the track on a straightaway. Always consider having a barrier between you and the track. Look for escape routes before starting to shoot. Consider what's behind you as sometimes the track can loop around and you could be in danger from that part of the track. Consider working in tandem with another person and take turns being a spotter for each other. This one helped me last year. And remember the golden rule: Speed and Distance. The greater the speed of the motor vehicle the greater the distance needed.

Surely common sense kicks in.

Personally I would have rushed to behind the tree, and have done so before when near racing events, whether cars or motorbikes.
A photo isn't worth much if you never live to see it!

Aaron Lyfe's picture

This is just lack of common sense. That was a horrible spot to shoot from both a safety and photographic standpoint. This is what happens in racing, all you can do is a risk assessment and mitigate the possibility of it happening to you.

Laurence Pierce's picture

well he is a TIT, he is positioned on the outside of the left curve and he should of been up against the tree, you must always be on the opposite side of the slide, you KNOW that gravity will slide the car out and you are in the track.

Chad D's picture

standing on the OUTSIDE corner as others have said yeah OK

purely %10 a ID 10 T error

discussion why ?
stupid people play stupid games and win stupid prizes !!

a bit like saying don't climb the small fence then go over the tall fence and jump over the mote and put your head in the tiger cage but yet people do that ? why cause they are STUPID

Jozef Povazan's picture

OK, very bad place to be in a straight line from the approach direction!!! Secondly, this is not a photographer but a regular guy who has no camera in his hands but a pair of binoculars or camcorder holding it in right hand...!!! A rally fun with bad idea where to watch it from! That explains why he positioned himself in the bad spot, so he could track with binoculars easier the approaching cars... and if he was just to his right next to tree nothing would happen !!! Feel sorry for him yet using brain on events like these is a must.

Joe Black's picture

Rally is amaaaazing to watch. But even being a spectator is dangerous let alone being a photographer. The spin out of control in many directions unlike track cars where the trejectory path of the vehicle can be predicted. Add to that looking through a lens probably one eye closed and wanting to get the picture of the car out of control and and and. I wonder how this doesn't happen more often 😂

Matt Tierney's picture

No way he should have been standing there. Period. On top of that, he is on the phone and does not even seem to be aware of the car until it is well off the course and about to hit him. I feel awful for the guy, but there is no excuse for that incident.

1. He is standing in an unsafe—and marked as such—area.
2. He is NOT paying attention.
3. He is right next to a tree that would have protected him.
4. He is not even working/shooting.

Matt Tierney's picture

WOW. Jalopnik now has a second video with another angle, and that guy is in even WORSE position than I originally shot. Not only that, he's lucky he didn't get run over or have the car on top of him.

Joe Black's picture

Not defending him but if you look closely between 8 and 9 seconds in the video he puts the camera down as the car looses it in the turn.

michael buehrle's picture

i might be cold and abrasive but i don't feel sorry for him at all. if he is so dumb to stand there.........well. there are perfectly good trees that would have stopped that and given him the same shot. you NEVER stand on the outside of a corner like that. you can't teach common sense.

I’m not sure he is on the wrong side of the tape. The car seems to lift the tape and then hit him.

The 2nd view video of the incidents that was later posted shows that the flagging tape was off of the shoulder of the road and there is open space between between the road and the treeline. The guy, David LaClair, isn't even back among the trees, he is standing just behind the tape and is completely out in the open!

As for what he was doing there, his Facebook page indicates that he works for the Sunrise Cable Network, a small cable network (provider?) in Onaway, MI and apparently produces programming as part of his work. It would seem that he was trying to get video footage of the rally at the time of his injury.

Here's the 2nd video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTWtKHHGNTg

Dusty Wooddell's picture

This was actually the first video I saw. Bad deal for sure.

C'mon, is there really any safe place to stand on a race track? At first it looked like the car was going to hit the person shooting the video. I think the best suggestion I've read is to have a spotter (with a rope tied to your belt to pull you away from danger) but I don' think that could be added to anyone's day rate.