Summernats Tears Into Canberra After Two Major Safety Incidents in Past Year

The Summernats car festival has returned to Canberra for the first time since a man died after falling from the back of a ute and revellers were sprayed with burning fuel at a sister event.

Tens of thousands of rev-heads will attend Summernats across the weekend, and organisers say safety will be a priority, having improved fencing around events and beefed up rules against riding in the back of utes.

During the festival’s 30th iteration in 2017, Queensland man Luke Newsome fell from the back of a ute while riding in its tray, later dying of his injuries.

The driver has been committed to stand trial over the death.

Luke Newsome

In September 2017, 14 people were injured after a car doing a burnout sprayed burning fuel on a crowd at the Red CentreNATS, which is associated with Summernats.

Event organiser Andy Lopez assured attendees that the upcoming festival would be safe.

“We work with ACT Worksafe, police and government as we do every year to continue to make our event safe,” he said.

“The obvious one for us is about reinforcing the rule about no riding in the back of utes, apart from that [Mr Newsome’s death] is still under investigation, it’s still before the courts.

“To be completely honest, we still don’t really know because the investigation is still continuing as to the full circumstances of what happened.”

A toy car in front of the city cruise.

Mr Lopez said lessons had also been learned from the mass burning at Red CentreNATS.

“We’ve made some adjustments to our perimeter fencing and that sort of thing in light of what happened, to provide greater separation between the crowd and the competition,” he said.

“We want people to come and have a great time, and we want everyone to get home safely.”

Summernats kicked off on Thursday afternoon with a traditional cruise into the heart of Canberra, then back out to Exhibition Park where the event is held.

Traffic was temporarily blocked to allow the police-escorted convoy of street machines along Northbourne Avenue.

A man waves from the window of a muscle car.