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Q: Olympic Accidents ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: Olympic Accidents
Category: Sports and Recreation > Trivia
Asked by: sirberkmire-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 16 Aug 2005 09:49 PDT
Expires: 15 Sep 2005 09:49 PDT
Question ID: 556399
Has anyone ever been decapitated in a Winter Olympics luge or bobsled race?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 16 Aug 2005 10:26 PDT
There is at least one case that I can find of a competitive sledder
being decapitated during world-class competition, but it did not occur
during the Olympics.

An Olympic skier was decapitated in a gruesome murder, but this was
unconnected with an Olympic event.

Other than those, I do not see any case of such a tragic accident
occuring during an Olympics.  Do you have reason to suppose such an
accident actually occurred?


Clarification of Question by sirberkmire-ga on 17 Aug 2005 06:16 PDT
Yes, my wife and I both remember seeing the accident on TV in the
earlier 90's while flipping channels one night.  At this point, I was
just assuming it was the Olympics since winter sports aren't on TV
much.  So, the "world-class competition" may be the answer.  Do you
have details?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 17 Aug 2005 06:31 PDT
Before posting an answer, I just want to check...the incident I know
of occurred in Italy in the 1970's...not the 1990's.

Is this the one you'd like details on?


Clarification of Question by sirberkmire-ga on 17 Aug 2005 07:26 PDT
Yes.  I only know when I saw it on TV.  I don't know when the accident
occured.  I've always assumed it was a live broadcast, but I don't
know.  It was so shocking at the time that I hardly believe it was
real - and no one else seems to have ever heard of such a thing.
Subject: Re: Olympic Accidents
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 17 Aug 2005 08:58 PDT

Thanks for getting back to me.

The accident you asked about, though rare (thankfully so), has been
known to happen.

I found a few references to bobsled accidents in which a sledder had
been decapitated.  Apparently, it's not that uncommon for a bobsledder
to have near-miss for this type of accident.

The Syracuse Herald-Journal for December 31, 1979 describes a serious
accident at Lake Placid in which a bobsled accident resulted in two
riders receiving serious head injuies:

"...four riders on a US Air Force bobsled crashed Saturday while
running practice trials...The sled's driver, Walter Hallett, 24,
suffered head injuries and a broken collarbone...Earl McNeil, 19, was
admitted [to the hospital] with head injuries...McNeil was dragged
down the run and past the finish line..."

The article goes on to describe an earlier accident as well:

"The bob run has been described as the fastest track in the world, and
one foreign sledder was killed on the run in the 1960s when he was
decapitated during a crash."


It was surprisingly difficult to find additional information on the
1960's crash, though I did find mention of it in another article, also
reporting on some bobsled accidents at Lake Placid:

Syracuse Post-Standard
December 15, 1979

"...The Canadian sled accident was similar to one that in 1966 took
the life of Italian driver Sergio Zardini, who was decapitated."


There is a brief web reference to the same accident:

"It happened during the winter of 1966...During the North American
bobsled championship the sled of the favorite Canadian team turned
over while negotiating a dangerous "death" curve and crashed into the
lip of the runaway. Olympic and world medallist driver Sergio Zardini
was killed instantly."

Beyond that, I did not find mention of any accidents at world-class
events that led to the death of a bobsledder in the grim manner you
asked about.  There were mentions, however, of other sledders meeting
similar fates, though not necessarily during international

My earlier reference to the accident taking place in Italy was a
mistake on my part.  It was an Italian who was killed, but obviously,
it did not occur in Italy.

I trust this information fully answers your question.

However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need.  If there's anything more I can do for you, just post a Request
for Clarification, and I'm happy to assist you further.


search strategy -- Searched Google and several newspaper databases for:

[(sled OR luge OR bobsled) decapitated ]

[sergio zardini ]
Subject: Re: Olympic Accidents
From: soccerfeaver88-ga on 06 Jan 2006 16:55 PST
if any 1's still interested in this topic, i've found information about 
"It happened during the winter of 1966...During the North American
bobsled championship the sled of the favorite Canadian team turned
over while negotiating a dangerous "death" curve and crashed into the
lip of the runaway. Olympic and world medallist driver Sergio Zardini
was killed instantly."
just go to the time magazine website, type in Sergio Zardini, and it
will show you a magazine about it.
Subject: Re: Olympic Accidents
From: sagaciousone-ga on 24 Feb 2006 18:26 PST
Ref: Sergio Zardini  -some little known trivia...

Taken from a local newspaper: Press Republican 2/20/06
40 Years Ago Today 

Italian driver Sergio Zardini is killed when his bobsled slides
sideways into the wood retaining wall of Zig-Zag curve at Mt. Van
Hoevenberg. Plattsburgh's Gil Jones suffered a broken hand in another
accident immediately before Zardini's fatal run.

Plattsburgh, NY  is approximately 35 miles from Lake Placid, NY. and
Mt. Van Hovenberg is situated between Lake Placid and Keene, NY. In
Keene, for many years, there was a popular gathering place for
bobsledders called Purdy's Elm Tree Inn. Purdy's had a rare photograph
of the precise moment when Zardini met his most unfortunate fate. I
first saw the photo as a kid in the early 70's. And again, in the
early 90's. Very chilling... to say the least. The following is a
blurb taken from the web about Purdy's: Purdy's historic Elm Tree Inn
in Keene is the unofficial headquarters for bobsledding in the
Adirondacks, a winter sport which began with the 1932 Lake Placid
Olympics when the Mt. Van Hoevenberg bobsled run was built just
outside the Keene town line- the only such run in the USA.

(I can't say if they are still open for business or what may have
happened to the photo -its been a while since I've been up that way.)

Subject: Re: Olympic Accidents
From: cjames42-ga on 09 Apr 2006 04:19 PDT
In regards to the Zardini accident. He was NOT decapitated.  What the
photos show are his helmet which became dislodged during the accident
on the Zig Zag turn of the bob run. I was there and helped the others
who were on the sled with him.

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