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Man at Speedway paralyzed by tire

Racing fan was in pit when critically hurt

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— 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.”



August 13, 2013
8:50 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I have been going to Fonda on Saturday nights since the late 60s. It has been a venue that is fun and inexpensive for families. I have not been attending so much since I moved away in the 90s. It so happened that I was at the Track when David got hit by the Tire. First time in years that I have been there. While attending I had noticed that they seem a little more organized than they use to be, but looking around the track I noticed that no safety features have been changed. Taking notice of the lower less secured fence in the pit area. It wasn't an hour later the tire had hit David. For the Lucia's to say that there will NOT be an investigation I feel is to protect there own #**. Guaranteed if I were David or his family I would want to know. My feelings are that if you haven't done your best to protect your Drivers or Spectators, than you need to improve what you have. Either the County or the Lucia's need to improve Safety. Grin and bare the expense. We are all Praying for you here David, miracles have been known to happen through the power of Jesus Christ our Lord.