Monster Jam is back - with safety improvements

Monster Jam is back - with safety improvements
TACOMA, Wash. - The monster trucks are returning to the Tacoma Dome exactly one year after a young boy was killed during last year's show.

But this time there are new safety measures in place designed to prevent a repeat of the tragic accident, promoters say.

Six-year-old Sebastian Hizey was killed last January as he sat with his family after a 7-inch steel ring broke off a monster truck and flew 30 feet into the Tacoma Dome stands.

Minutes later paramedics were in the stands trying to save the young boy, and spectators threw garbage onto the track in an attempt to stop the show - but it still went on.

Bill Easterly, senior director of operations for Feld Motor Sports, says that was a low point for the Monster Jam team.

"We questioned our existence because losing one fan to us is like losing a family member. I can tell you that it affects me greatly. We've all shed a lot of tears over it," he says.

John Seasock, the defending Monster Jam racing champion, agrees.

"It was a very sad situation. It affected everyone. I pray every time I get into the truck," he says.

 Sebastian Hizey
Now the popular "Monster Jam" tour is returning at the request of the fans, say the promoter and city managers.

It's the same promoter as last year, but this time, the show is stressing "safety first." Engine restraints have been installed on all trucks, along with remote-controlled kill switches.

But possibly the most important improvement is a tether system that has been installed to prevent a repeat of the accident that killed young Sebastian.

Seasock says the tether is designed to prevent the drive shaft housing loops from flying out from under a truck. The design of the loop is new as well, he says.

Just as important, he says, is the team's constant devotion to safety.

"There’s no downtime between venues and races," he says. "We are constantly checking bolts and the frame for things like stress fractures. There is a long checklist of things that have to be reviewed before we can fire up the truck."

It's believed a bad weld in the drive train may have caused last year's disaster.

Promoter Bill Easterly says, "We certainly hope what we have done will prevent what happened last year. We sure as heck want it to be that way."

"I would love to be the person to be able to stand up and say, 'Sure we've got it, we know how to do it.' I don't think that's honest enough. The honesty is to say, we would like to try everything to make sure nothing like that happens again. And I hope that we've got it, and if not we'll keep trying."

So as a secondary precaution, the promoter will close down more rows of seats closest to the action inside the Dome - including the row where Sebastian and his family was sitting when he was killed.

The Tacoma Dome's manager said he is satisfied with the safety improvements.

"I'm very, very pleased with the additional safety security regions inside the venue, but also at the vehicles," manager Mike Combs says.

Still, every ticket will carry the warning that spectators enter at their own risk.