Seven Sue Over Walkway Collapse

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SALISBURY, N.C. -- Five people injured when a pedestrian walkway collapsed at Lowe's Motor Speedway and two of their spouses filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the track's parent company and the construction firm that built the bridge.

The lawsuit, filed in Rowan County Superior Court, accuses Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Tindall Corp. of negligence in the May 20 accident that injured 107 people. At least 15 people remained hospitalized Wednesday, two in critical condition.

The five race-goers are suing for unspecified damages of at least $10,000 each for medical expenses and lost wages. The spouses also are seeking at least $10,000 while suing for loss of companionship.

The injured plaintiffs received broken bones and teeth and minor cuts and bruises. The plaintiffs' attorney, Chris Mauriello of Salisbury, said his clients are still being treated, so it's too soon to know the amount of their medical bills.

"Their injuries run the gamut," said Mauriello, whose Salisbury law firm was contacted by the plaintiffs. "Time's going to tell on it."

The racing fans at The Winston, NASCAR's all-star race, had exited the track on a concrete walkway bridge when it collapsed, sending them 17 feet to U.S. 29 below.

The plaintiffs who sued include four family members injured: Christopher Melton of Rowan County; his mother, Sandra; her sister, Cammie Yarborough of Florence, S.C.; and Yarborough's 8-year-old daughter, Alexandria. The fifth injured plaintiff is Kenneth Michael Brown of Spencer.
Sandra Melton's husband, Robert, and Mrs. Yarborough's husband, Charles, also sued.

The lawsuit accuses the speedway and the construction company of gross negligence in the accident -- by Tindall building a defective product and the speedway for failing to inspect it properly and ensure its safety.

Investigators hired by the speedway said last week they had found high levels of calcium chloride in the concrete slabs that made up the 320-foot-long bridge. An ingredient in the compound ate away at steel reinforcing cables running through the slabs, the investigators concluded.

A speedway official said it was the track's policy not to comment on pending litigation. A phone message left for Tindall Corp. chief operating officer William Lowndes IV at company headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., was not returned Wednesday night.

A rust spot on a second pedestrian bridge prompted track officials to close it for last weekend's Coca-Cola 600.

Because both bridges are privately owned, they are not subject to inspections that state- and federal-owned bridges must undergo every two years. But the state Department of Transportation last week ordered all nine remaining privately owned walkways over North Carolina highways to undergo inspections at the soonest opportunity.

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