Raceway vehicle seized as tot fights for life

 

POLICE have seized the pace vehicle involved in a catastrophic harness racing accident that left a toddler fighting for her life.

Prominent harness racer Gary Whitaker, wife Joedy and children Lara and Josh were hit by the gate on a pace vehicle when it failed to retract as they stood on the sidelines about 7pm at the Redcliffe Paceway on Sunday.

The entire family was hospitalised but little Lara, 2, fared the worst suffering critical facial and abdominal injuries.

She yesterday remained critical in the Queensland Children's Hospital.

Ms Whitaker has thanked the racing community for its support during.

Gary and Joedy Whitaker with Lara and Josh.
Gary and Joedy Whitaker with Lara and Josh.

"Gaz has been released with a large cut to his head. Josh and Lara are both spending the night in ICU at Lady Cilento," she posted on social media.

The injuries to Josh, 1, are not life-threatening.

 

Police at Redcliffe Paceway following the accident. Picture: Tara Croser
Police at Redcliffe Paceway following the accident. Picture: Tara Croser

 

Police investigators are now working through the incident to establish exactly how it happened.

Investigators were on the scene again yesterday morning after vehicle involved was taken by officers after the accident.

Harness racing uses a barrier-gate fixed to a vehicle which rides ahead of the horses. Police said the gate had not retracted when it smashed into the family.

An industry insider told The Courier-Mail that he had seen pace vehicles malfunction multiple times during his career.

"The mobile gates have got that problem where they jam up, It's a problem that has been ongoing for many years," the man, who did not want to be identified, claimed.

 

Lara Whitaker is in a critical condition while Josh Whitaker’s injuries are non-life-threatening.
Lara Whitaker is in a critical condition while Josh Whitaker’s injuries are non-life-threatening.

 

Racing Queensland did not respond to questions but in a statement said it was limited by the ongoing investigation.

"Our utmost concern is for the impacted family," RQ CEO Brendan Parnell said.

A counselling service has been set up and tomorrow's met Redcliffe Paceway abandoned.

The Redcliffe Harness Racing Club thanked bystanders who ran to help the stricken family.

"Our thoughts and love with those injured in the mobile incident," the club posted on Facebook.

"Thanks to everyone who helped so quickly."

Secretary of Marburg Pacing Association Denis Smith said Mr Whitaker will be out for some time.

"He's a very highly rated driver, high profile, he's driven for me plenty of times," he said.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is also investigating.


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