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Employee: SpeedVegas Racing Track is Unsafe

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An employee driving instructor who has refused to sign a declaration that a tourist-oriented exotic auto racing track near Las Vegas is safe has filed a lawsuit in state court asking a judge to close the course so it can be redesigned.

Francisco Durban’s attorney, Dominic Gentile, said Wednesday his client fears that he might be killed like two other people in a Feb. 12 crash at the SpeedVegas track, and he won’t sign a safety waiver because he doesn’t feel the facility has “taken every precaution to ensure his or the customers’ safety.”

“He wants to drive. He wants to drive safe. And he doesn’t want to lie,” Gentile said of Durban. “If he quits, he can’t go someplace else.”

Gentile referred to a non-compete agreement that Durban, 40, of Las Vegas, signed when he was hired before the track opened in April 2016. It prohibits him from working at another track for a year if he quits.

Durban “should hot have to choose between being killed or being fired,” said the lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court.

Through representatives, owner-operator Scott Gragson and his company, World Class Driving, “categorically” denied the allegations in the complaint.

“Extensive on-site inspections” by “a panel of independent international track experts … concluded that there is nothing inherently unsafe in either the design or operating procedures at SpeedVegas,” company chief executive Aaron Fessler said in a statement.

He promised a vigorous courtroom defense “from unfounded allegations.”

The 1½-mile road course several miles south of the Las Vegas Strip was closed for 12 days after the fiery crash of an orange Lamborghini Aventador killed Craig Sherwood, 37, of Thornhill, Ontario, and driving instructor Gil Ben-Kely, 59, of Henderson.

Authorities said the car slammed into a wall at a curve following a half-mile straightaway and caught fire. The Clark County coroner determined that Ben-Kely died in the crash and Sherwood died in the fire.

The track reopened Feb. 23, and the crash is being investigated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The lawsuit says tourists driving high-performance vehicles including Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, Shelby and Audi models faster than 150 mph are required only to be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license, and wear closed-toe shoes. Fees range from about $40 to $80 per lap, depending on the car.

Gentile said employees have told his investigators about five crashes in the first nine months of track operations, including two prior wrecks at a turn that immediately follows the straightaway. SpeedVegas advertises the stretch as the longest at an amateur track without a speed limit.

Two other companies in Las Vegas, Exotics Racing and Dream Racing, operate tourist driving experience businesses at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 1½-mile motorsports track that hosts NASCAR and other events.

Since the crash at SpeedVegas, instructors have been required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, perform a road test on the track and sign a form acknowledging the job has “inherent risk,” but that “every precaution” was taken for safety, Durban’s lawsuit said.

It asks a judge to order the company to reconfigure the track to address safety issues, and to require improved racing vehicle maintenance and a faster fire and safety response.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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