"This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that Iâ€™ve ever personally had to make," Helton told the assembled media at Daytona International Speedway. "But after the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, weâ€™ve lost Dale...
"This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I’ve ever personally had to make," Helton told the assembled media at Daytona International Speedway. "But after the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we’ve lost Dale Earnhardt. I have with me Dr. Steve Bohannon, who is a trauma doctor here in Daytona that’s worked several events here at the Speedway. He can explain the medical practice that went on at the accident scene and over to the hospital. In a timing issue, we’re here to tell you what we know. We don’t know a lot. We don’t enough to answer all your questions. Our prayers and wishes and effort right now this moment is with Teresa and the Earnhardt family, Richard Childress and his family and Dale Earnhardt Inc."
Dr. Steve Bohannon, M.D., director of emergency medical services at the Speedway, described the medical response. "I was on one of the ambulances that responded to the accident," said Dr. Bohannon. "I was about the third or fourth in. When I arrived there were a number of paramedics already tending to him. There was a paramedic in through the passenger window applying oxygen by a mask. Dr. Alfred Alson, who is a trauma surgeon from Flagler County was in through the driver’s window and was delivering CPR. And there was another paramedic in the window maintaining the C-spine, holding the head. There were a number of firefighters that were on top of the car, attempting to remove the roof, which was subsequently done. It took about five or 10 minutes. During which time, we did CPR.
"When the roof came off, Dr. Alson and I both identified this was a very bad situation – a load and go situation. We immediately removed him and transported him to the area Level II trauma center, Halifax Hospital. Transport time was about a minute to a minute and a half. During which time we continued CPR. There was a full trauma team there to meet him, a trauma neurosurgeon, Dr. William Kuhn, trauma surgeon, Dr. Jose Dimayuga. There were several emergency room doctors there as well. We all did everything we could for him. Additionally there was an anesthesiologist who helped us maintain the airway, but he had what I feel were life-ending type injuries at the time of impact. And really nothing could be done for him.
"He arrived to the hospital at 16:54. Full trauma resuscitation was attempted for about a little over 20min, at which time he was placed on a ventilator, multiple I.V. lines were given, I.V. fluids, chest tubes, various diagnostic tests. He never showed any signs of life and subsequently was pronounced dead by all the physicians in attendance at 17:16. His wife was there at the bedside.
"That is about all I know at this time. He has been turned over to the medical examiner’s office and will be the medical examiner’s case. I suspect an autopsy will be done, probably tomorrow for the exact cause of death. My speculation as an emergency physician would be head injuries, particularly at the base of the skull that ended his life. He was unconscious, unresponsive from the time of the first paramedic’s arrival. He was not breathing and had no palpable pulse from the time of the first paramedic’s arrival at the scene and remained that way throughout. That’s all I have."
To a question if the HANS device might have made a difference in the outcome of Earnhardt's crash, Dr. Bohannon responed: "I really don’t know if that would have or not (saved Earnhardt's life)," said Bohannon. "That would be pure speculation at this point, not knowing the exact cause of death. I know a full-face helmet would not have made any difference whatsoever. He had no evidence of facial injuries. I don’t know if the HANS device would have helped or not. I suspect not.
"He had blood in his airway. He had blood in the ears that we see with basilar skull fractures. But really no other external evidence of trauma," Bohannon concluded.
Helton then ended the press conference saying, "Folks, there’s no question that this is a very difficult time. I think Bill France’s quote that the Speedway and NASCAR will put out in a second sums it up for the moment. There will be other press conferences and other opportunities to answer questions as we get more answers.
"But his quote is: ‘NASCAR has lost its greatest driver ever. And I personally have lost a great friend.’ That’s Bill France’s quote. I think that pretty well sums it up for the NASCAR community right now."