Monday, April 13, 2015

The birthday he will wish he could forget.........

"I ma drive all the cars they have in one day.  Because I'm a gangsta like that.  Lol," stated Tavon Watson.

On April 12 2015, Tavon Watson, 24, was celebrating his birthday at the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World in Orlando FL and had boasted that he would be driving a Ferrari 458 Italia LSTRF.  He posted that as well as his wish to drive all the cars they had that day on his Facebook account along with a picture a friend took of him standing next to the car.

At 3:30 pm though, Watson crashed while driving a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 on the track with instructor Gary Terry.  Terry, 36 died at the scene and Watson was taken to the hospital with only minor injuries.  The day at the track which offers ride-alongs and driving experiences was a gift from Watson's wife.

The track is a hybrid track that also hosts the Richard Petty driving experience with NASCAR drives and rides as well.  It opened in 1997 and four years ago it began offering rides and drives in exotic cars such as the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.  The experience starts as low as $99 for a ride along with an experienced instructor and goes all the way to a 50 lap driving experience with video.

The track is a closed track and because of that the driving rules are different than on the public streets.  The FHP was called to the scene of the accident though and they will be handling the investigation.  They plan to analyze the video from the drive to try and pin point what may have gone wrong.  It has been reported that Watson has been cooperating with the investigation and will face no charges because it had happened on a racetrack.  Watson, of Kissimmee FL, reportedly has driven at the experience in the past.

The preliminary report states that Watson failed to maneuver the car through a curve and then he crashed into a guardrail.  Both men were wearing suits, buckled in and had helmets on at the time of the crash.  A look at the overhead pictures from the crash show long skid marks on a straightaway section of the track leading into the the part of the track that cuts through the center of the oval.

It looks as though Watson lost control of the high powered vehicle and was sliding sideways on the grass for quite a distance.  The car then crossed a small paved dead end road before smashing into an unprotected guardrail with the passenger side of the car.  It is believed that Terry, his co pilot and instructor, died instantly in the passenger seat.

Gary Terry had been a life long sports car driver who took up instructing when he moved to Florida.  He and his two brothers grew up in St Joseph MI and he began racing in full size cars when he was only 15 years old.  He moved to Florida about 11 years ago and began working as an instructor and at the time of his death, he was also the operations manager at the driving experience.

He and his wife had just started a family while living in Davenport FL with a baby girl who is now about two years old.  He kept his love for adventure and the outdoors and still raced back in Michigan occasionally.  His family is stunned by his sudden death while doing what he loved to do.  He is remembered as a great father, friend, brother and buddy and many will miss him.  His younger brother Adam stated that he wishes he could turn back time and change the outcome of Sunday but he is glad that he has the wonderful memories of Gary.

Petty Holdings LLC and Disney have expressed their deepest sympathies to Gary's family and friends.  The track has been scheduled to close in June 2015 to make way for transportation, as in more parking lots.  the closure though was planned many months before this weekend's accident.

A gofundme site has been set up for the Terry family:

Update April 14 2015:

The preliminary report states that gary can be seen on the onboard video trying to grab the wheel and counter steer the car right before it crashed.  The evidence so far indicates that the car Watson was driving spun three times before it hit the guardrail on Gary's side.  The FHP is estimating that the car was traveling about 100 mph when it went over the curb but a more complete report will be released after the investigation is complete.

They are still not certain if it was driver error, excessive speed for that part of the track or if there was any type of malfunction with the car. A spokesman for Petty holdings LLC has stated that the Richard Petty Driving Experience which uses the main track will reopen for NASCAR driving on April 20 2015 but the Exotic Car Experience will not reopen until May 1 2015.  It had been announced that both would cease operations in Orlando on July 1 2015 but it was stated today that it would actually end on August 9 2015.  There was no explanation for the difference in closing dates.

A Gofundme site has been established for the funeral costs, living expenses and education for Gary's wife Kathy and his 2 year old daughter Taylor.  It states that it has been started by a cousin of the family who is a lawyer and the intention is for a trust fund to be established and funds from the gofundme account will be sent there for management in the future.

Gofundme site: