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Monster Jam official says event is safe despite recent fatal accidents

Crew chief Cole Vernard works to wiggle giant tires onto Grave Digger as the crew prepares Thursday for monster truck shows today and Saturday at the Fargodome. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Spectators attending Monster Jam this weekend at the Fargodome should feel safe despite fatal accidents at two monster truck shows last month, the show's promoter says.

The Fargodome isn't making any safety changes in how it hosts the event, now in its 17th year at the dome, General Manager Rob Sobolik said.

"We have full confidence in what they do," he said of the Monster Jam promoter, Feld Motor Sports Inc., based in Aurora, Ill.

A 6-year-old boy was struck and killed by a flying metal ring that tore off a truck doing doughnuts during a Jan. 16 show in Tacoma, Wash., The Associated Press reported.

On Jan. 24, the promoter and announcer of a show at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., died when he walked in front of a moving monster truck and was crushed beneath one of its wheels.

Feld Motor Sports promoted the Tacoma show. Company spokeswoman Amy McWethy said the fatal accident remains under investigation.

The truck that lost the Frisbee-sized metal ring, Natural High, was immediately removed from the show and is being inspected to find out what happened, she said.

"This is so out of the ordinary, this is such a tragic accident, that until we know what happened - and it had never happened in the 25 years of Monster Jam events - we feel that, at this point, we're still confident that the safety procedures work," she said.

Among those procedures:

• Depending on the size and setup of the arena, the first 15 to 20 rows of seating along the side tracks are left open to create a safety buffer zone. Concrete walls 20 to 25 feet high usually stand at the end of each track to provide a barrier.

• Safety technicians positioned around the track are each equipped with a device called a radio ignition interrupter.

"As the truck is moving, if they see something that looks out of the ordinary to them or it just looks like something's not right, they have the ability to shut the engine off and the truck will stop immediately," McWethy said.

• Every truck undergoes a safety inspection before each engagement.

Sobolik said the dome works with Feld Motor Sports to ensure safety, "but they take the lead on it because they do it every week."

The dome is indemnified against any liability that may arise as a result of Feld's use of the building, he said.

Monster Jam typically draws 23,000 to 26,000 people during its two-day run, Sobolik said.

Nationwide, about 3 million people annually attend Monster Jam events, McWethy said.