Olympic Luger's Death Blamed on "Human Error"

Celebrity Body Feb. 13, 2010 AT 6:47PM
Olympic Luger's Death Blamed on "Human Error" Credit: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Despite concerns about the speed of the luge track in Vancouver, Olympian Nodar Kumaritashvili's Friday death has been blamed on "human error."

Kumaritashvili, who is from the Eastern European country of Georgia, slammed into a pole at nearly 90 mph during a practice run.

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On Saturday, the International Luge Federation and Vancouver Olympic officials said Kumaritashvili's crash was caused when he was "late" coming out of the next-to-last turn in the track, which caused him to lose "control of the sled."

"There was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track," the statement read. 

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According to NPR, the 21-year-old Georgian -- who was ranked No. 44 in the world -- had crashed four times out of 16 practice runs.

The track was reopened Saturday with a few changes, including a different start point to slow competitors down, a raised wall where Kumaritashvili was thrown off and an unspecified "change in the ice profile to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again," according to a statement. (The Wall Street Journal explains that the angle of the ice was shifted in several places along the track.)

International Luge Federation president Josef Fendt told NPR, "we never said it is too fast" but a decision was made to alter the track based on the "emotional components" of the athletes.

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The men who practiced on Saturday all wore black tape on the left sides of their helmets to honor Kumaritashvili. A bouquet of yellow flowers was left by the pole Kumaritashvili hit. A man was also spotted sobbing near the scene of the accident in the morning.

The first luge medal event will be held on Sunday as planned.

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