The family of Kevin Ward Jr. issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that strongly hinted at a civil lawsuit after an Ontario County (N.Y.) grand jury said that it would not indict Tony Stewart in Ward's death on Aug. 9.
Ward, 20, was struck and killed by Stewart after the two were racing together in a sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. After Ward's car hit the wall, he exited the car and came down the track to confront Stewart, where he was hit by the right-rear tire of Stewart's car.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo announced the grand jury's decision and said video evidence showed Stewart drove in a straight line, that toxicology reports determined that Ward was under the influence of marijuana at the time and it was an amount enough to "impair his judgment."
The marijuana revelation, previously unreported, provided new evidence that transferred the focus of responsibility from Stewart back to Ward, something his family took issue with.
"Our son got out of his car during caution when the race was suspended. All the other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating except for Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him, causing the tragedy. The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart. This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.”
Stewart was not subject to toxicology reports but Tantillo said the NASCAR star met with a drug recognition expert after the incident and there was no basis to believe that Stewart was under the influence of anything. According to New York law, a person who isn't arrested cannot be compelled to submit a toxicology sample.
Tantillo said that two videos were used as evidence in the case. While there are no criminal charges in the matter, the Ward family could file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
"Those videos were examined in detail. They were enhanced. They were run through programs that allow the frames to be isolated," Tantillo said. "They were run at 75, 50 and 25 percent speed. They were overlaid with grids and data and they were pretty important piece of the evidence here.
"The videos did not demonstrate any aberrational driving by Tony Stewart until the point of impact with Kevin Ward, at which his vehicle veered to the right, up the track as a result of the collision. Prior to that his course was pretty straight."
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