Luke Newsome's death does little to dampen mood of Summernats
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Luke Newsome's death does little to dampen mood of Summernats

The death of Summernats patron Luke Newsome failed to dampen the mood for fellow car enthusiasts at Exhibition Park on Saturday.

Mr Newsome fell off the back of a ute on Thursday afternoon and died at Canberra Hospital on Friday. The incident prompted organisers to ban people from riding on the trays of vehicles.

But festival-goers at the event on Saturday seemed unfazed by the death, and the frozen cocktails continued to flow. Many revellers who spoke to Fairfax Media said the death, the first in the history of the event, had minimal impact on the 30th instalment of the car festival.

While most doubted the tragedy would have an impact on the festival, some questioned the future of the event.

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First-time Summernats patrons Amy Judd and Chris Meli of Melbourne have spent five hours in the front row of the burnouts competition at 2017 Summernats.

First-time Summernats patrons Amy Judd and Chris Meli of Melbourne have spent five hours in the front row of the burnouts competition at 2017 Summernats. Credit:Karleen Minney

Canberran Nicole Hardie anticipated a tightening of safety restrictions.

"It will definitely change a lot of things in terms of safety and people riding on top of cars. It's a tragic thing that's happened and just very sad," she said.

But Mrs Hardie said the four-day festival is adored by too many to have any serious ramifications to its future.

"It's probably the best thing about Canberra to me, I love the Summernats," she said.

Jay Greathead had made the trip from Campbelltown in Sydney's west for the past 12 festivals and this year's version was far more "intense" than previous years.

He said the death hadn't affected the mood of the weekend.

"You haven't seen people riding on the back trays but it wasn't really about that, it's more about the cars," Mr Greathead said.

Canberran Ian Sloane was one of a few who believed the future of the event was safe, while a rubber-coated Amy Judd and Chris Meli of Melbourne said the death of Mr Newsome hadn't appeared to have an impact.

"We haven't heard anything to do with it from anyone here, it was just through social media we heard," Mr Meli said.

"The people who run the show try and get the safety message across, but it's up to whoever to do what they want to do," he said.

Canberra mother Lisa Smith said Summernats was getting bigger each year. She hoped the death would at least serve as a reminder for regulars to behave responsibly.

"It won't make people more aware either, they will still act up and there will still be accidents," she said.

As a festival regular, Mrs Smith was concerned with the "mob-mentality" of the patrons. She hoped people would be more careful, especially given the family-friendly slogan event organisers stand by.

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Event co-owner Andy Lopez said it was too early to comment on the impact of Mr Newsome's death would have. Instead, he payed respects to Mr Newsome's grieving family while defending the event's safety record.

"Our considerations about what's happened are really about what's happened to the family," Mr Lopez said. "Investigations will come from that and what flows will flow."

James is a reporter for The Canberra Times and Chronicle

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