FONDA A man in the Fonda Speedway pit was paralyzed Saturday when a tire flew over the fence and hit him.
David Buanno, whose family owns BTA Trucking, was airlifted to Albany Medical Center Hospital.
He is in critical condition with a broken neck and a full spinal break, his brother Peter Buanno said.
Stock-car tires weigh about 75 pounds and can fly off because of loose lug nuts or a car crash.
A speedway spokeswoman said she did not know why the tire flew off the car and said the speedway is not planning to investigate.
David Buanno was no stranger to stock-car pits, where crews refuel cars and replace tires during races. He raced stock cars at Fonda himself years ago.
His brother said he was enjoying his retirement at a place he loved.
“Just because he likes going,” Peter Buanno said. “He’s a member of the hall of fame there.”
And he knows many of the drivers and crew members. He was with some of them when the tire flew over the fence.
“Those who saw it said it’s a miracle he’s alive,” his brother said.
Family members prepared to say goodbye and take him off life support Monday, but discovered he was awake and able to communicate.
“He’s got his mind 100 percent,” his brother said. “It’s hard for him to talk — they’ve got a breathing tube in his mouth. You’ve got to sort of read his lips. But he can shake his head up and down and back and forth.”
Now, they’re hoping for a miracle. Occasionally, when swelling recedes, paralysis victims get some feeling back, and Peter Buanno said his brother shocked them all by moving his shoulders Monday.
Later this week, they might authorize surgery if he continues to stabilize. But Peter Buanno warned that things still look grim.
“It’s not good,” he said.
The incident shocked spectators and crews. They posted good wishes on the Fonda Speedway Facebook page, and the Speedway posted, “We at the speedway would like to send our thoughts and prayers to Dave Buanno for a speedy recovery.”
That post was later deleted after the seriousness of the injury became known.
Fonda Speedway officials also tried to reassure spectators by saying that tires don’t usually fly over the fence.
“The tires don’t come off the cars,” speedway promoter Laura Lucia said. “We’ve been there 17 years and only once a tire came off a car, many years ago. It’s a very freak accident.”
However, in 2012 driver Rocky Warner said he had to go to the hospital “to get checked out after getting hit by a tire last Saturday here at Fonda,” according to speedway news archives.
He recovered and won a race the following week.
On Saturday, the tire did not reach the grandstand. It fell into the pit.
“This was not in the area where the crowd is,” Lucia said.
But the speedway, like many other stock-car tracks, has long had a blanket warning for all spectators. It reads, “Racing is a dangerous sport. You attend these races at your own risk. Management assumes no liability for injuries to body or damage to property while attending [a] racing event.”