ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A series of snowmobile crashes at this year’s X Games are raising questions about the safety of both riders and fans.
Approximately 100,000 spectators come to Aspen each year for the games, and Alex Burchetta with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office told CBS4 every October his office meets with with police, fire and medical personnel to make sure the events runs smoothly.
Burchetta said fans are their primary concern and that the competitors are aware of the danger they face in their events.
“There is an inherent risk to the games,” he said. “The X Games, the nature of the event is that it’s an extreme sports event.”
Several competitors get injured during the games each year, but no one has died in the games’ 17 year history. That statistic might change after this year’s X Games. Snowmobile rider Caleb Moore, 25, is fighting to survive a at hospital in Grand Junction.
The Texas man wiped out during the games last week while flying off a jump on his snowmobile. He was crushed by the snowmobile while attempting a backflip, and staggered off the course and headed to the hospital afterwards. His family says he has bleeding around his heart and a brain injury.
Moore’s crash made national news, and a few days later another X Games crash also shocked people who saw it. It showed rider Jackson Strong of Australia attempting a huge backflip on his snowmobile on Sunday. The throttle apparently got stuck on the snowmobile and it then began heading straight at the crowd. A safety fence contained it and luckily no one in the crowd was hurt.
Burchetta said his office’s planning paid off in the incident with Strong’s snowmobile.
“We were concerned that it was heading to a packed spectator area. Earlier in the day we met with the ESPN people to make sure we had a response plan and hazards were mitigated — they had fencing and rope lines set up,” he said.
Despite the concerns, Burchetta says he hopes the X Games will live on.
“We look forward to having it next year and years to come,” he said.
How much longer that happens in Aspen isn’t clear. There are some reports out that the games could move to another venue.
PHOTO GALLERY: X Games In Aspen