The moment Carlin Dunne crashed, everything changed.
Riding his 2019 Ducati Streetfighter V4 Prototype, the 36-year-old zoomed around the final corner and was on pace to break the motorcycle record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, but what happened next was nothing close to a celebration.
Dunne lost control of his bike about 20 yards from the finish line and flew off the side of the mountain.
"Lens caps," a Pikes Peak official screamed, instructing photographers to quit taking pictures.
In a moment when the only way for anyone to find out about the crash was via news reporters and photographers on the scene, race officials silenced them. For one hour and 20 minutes, there was no official information on social media or the live radio broadcast about the crash.
Photographers were told not to photograph; reporters were told not to report.
"As with all incidents on Pikes Peak, we need the scene to be clear from media and spectators so the safety team can attend to the victim in a quick and effective manner," PPIHC Executive Director Megan Leatham said.
However, the media at the time was more than 50 feet from the safety team and was never told to clear the area, just stop reporting.
Here's what happened inside the hour without media at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, told by photographers Parker Seibold and Katie Klann, reporters Lindsey Smith, George Stoia and myself.
10:29 a.m. – Dunne crashes
Katie Klann: I could hear the final racer making his way up the final stretch. I looked through my lens and saw the man waving the checkered flag drop his flags and raise his right hand to his head. I looked over my shoulder to see shrapnel, parts of Dunne’s bike, fly over the edge of the mountain roughly 20 yards before the finish line. The man at the finish line immediately started to yell into his headset for an ambulance and ran over to the outside edge of the road. Human instinct led Parker and me to follow.
Parker Seibold: I heard what sounded like a crash and saw Carlin Dunne and his bike both fly through the corner of my frame before disappearing over the side of the mountain. In those seconds that the crash happened, I captured 22 images chronicling a man at the finish line lowering the checkered flags and grabbing his head as Carlin and his bike flew across the road and approximately 30 feet down the side of the mountain. I held my shutter down unsure of what I was even really capturing until after the moment had passed.
Lindsey Smith: I was talking to Rennie (Scaysbrook) outside the Summit House right after he had finished, and I saw the helicopter start circling. I asked a Pikes Peak official if that should be concerning, and he said, 'No.' Then he said, 'Well, maybe' and ran away. I ran over and saw ambulance lights flashing at the finish line, so I went to listen to the radio broadcast in the Summit House where I found George.
Katie: The ambulance arrived, coming from the top of the mountain, and a man and woman hopped out and looked over the edge. They put on gloves, opened the back of the ambulance, grabbed a few supplies and headed over the edge towards Dunne.
George Stoia: I was sitting in the Summit House when the crash happened. I was expecting Dunne to be the winner and was writing the quick race story when the radio broadcast said, ‘Carlin has yet to cross the finish line.’ Lindsey came in and said she thought Dunne had crashed and was going to the finish line. I kept listening to the radio, which just kept saying he hadn’t crossed the finish line. There was no mention of a crash or what exactly happened.
Lindsey: I told George to stay in the Summit House to listen to the broadcast, and I ran to the finish line. I saw stretchers being pulled out, but there was no sign of Carlin or his bike. At that point, I was midway up the pile of boulders and pulled out my phone to tweet. I was told to put my phone away. I responded that I was just going to tweet, but a female Pikes Peak worker said it didn't matter and that I couldn't report anything I saw. She said it would be better if I just left.
By the time Lindsey was getting ready to depart the scene of the accident, I had made my way to the finish line from the final turn, which is where I took the last published video and picture of Dunne. Sprinting at 14,000 feet wasn't easy, but I knew something was fishy when I hadn't received a text message from Lindsey.
When I got to the scene, Lindsey was there – clearly frustrated about the shutdown of media coverage.
In order to have a reporter at the spot of the accident, I took Lindsey's place. The moment I came into the sight of race officials, I was told to put my camera away. I didn't even have time to digest what I was looking at. When I tried to access my phone in order to message my co-workers, I was promptly told to get rid of that, as well.
10:41 a.m. – Cameras, phones away
Katie: I sent a text saying, “I’m about to cry. He wrecked right in front of me."
Parker: I climbed up a pile of rocks and got five frames of the ambulance that had just come down from the summit before hearing someone yell, “LENS CAPS.” The phrase was repeated over and over again before the race officials were sure all cameras were either turned around or had lens caps. After pulling my cameras behind my back, an official asked me to turn around a camera that was on a tripod in the rocks. I told her it wasn’t mine and tried to explain the camera was off, and she said she didn’t care. I turned it around.
While the photographers put their cameras and phones away, I spent my time chatting with a race official about what happened. By that time, there were 10 cars – three race safety trucks, one ambulance, two search and rescue vehicles, three Jeeps and one other car. Since I was at the final turn, I did not get a chance to see the accident. However, the race official's story aligned perfectly with that of our photographers. He spent time talking with two videographers from Bentley and myself, uncovering every piece of detail.
Of course, I decided to write it all down, since pen and paper don't have a camera.
10:51 a.m. – Pen, paper also banned
George: When I got to the finish line, I was immediately told to put my phone away, which I had been using to text Lindsey about what was happening. As I walked up, Evan was told to put his notepad away or else it would be confiscated.
I was confused.
George: Evan asked why he couldn’t take notes, to which a race official responded, "Hey buddy, you need to calm down or else they will escort you off the mountain." At this point, they were starting to repel down the side of the mountain to find Dunne.
Frustrated at my inability to do my job, considering we were the only print media covering the event, I argued back. Nobody from The Gazette was breaking the law or disobeying the media regulations set in place before the event, so I didn't see a reason why we weren't allowed to work in order to tell the story of Dunne's accident.
Instead, everyone sat in silence.
10:58 a.m. – Rescuers recover Dunne
George: After being told he might be escorted off the mountain, Evan finally left the finish line. I stayed and kept time stamps on my Apple Watch. Thankfully, that doesn't have a camera. At 11:01 a.m. Dunne was pulled off the mountain on a stretcher. At 11:04 a.m. he was put into an ambulance.
Katie: I told Parker that I felt sick and my knees were shaking. Parker and I looked to the top of the mountain and saw a motorcyclist who had completed the race sitting with his head in his hands. As the search and rescue team pulled Dunne up over the ledge, they moved him from one stretcher to another and put him in the back of the ambulance.
11:06 a.m. - Dunne leaves mountain
George: Everything was silent. I couldn't see Dunne. At this point, it was completely silent. Nobody was talking except for the guys pulling him up. Once they got him up, they immediately put him into the ambulance on his stretcher. I couldn't see him, his body or if he was moving. All I saw were the ambulance doors open and shut. None of this was allowed to be photographed, videotaped or posted online. Or, in Evan’s case, written on a notepad.
Katie: The officials with PPIHC announced that no one was to cross the road to take photos of the bike, which they left in the rocks as the race started up again. They sternly asked who ran across the street and wrote down our vest numbers.
While all this was occurring, I was briefing Lindsey in the shuttle bus that got us to the summit.
Lindsey: I was writing the story and was just really concerned if our credentials were going to be pulled for what we witnessed.
George: It just felt like we were walking on eggshells with what we were writing because of the sensitivity of the topic and the threatening nature of how it was being handled by race officials.
After Lindsey published her story, she instructed George to go get Parker and Katie from the scene of the accident. They returned to the bus to give an eyewitness account of what they saw.
Parker: Katie and I had a conversation about the ways we could have told the story tastefully with images of the search and rescue team, or other moments following the accident without having the ethical dilemma of running images of a racer and their bike after the crash. We discussed the censorship that was occurring and both had the realization that the censorship was putting us and the race officials in a worse situation because we now had to decide if we were going to run images of the accident itself, rather than a tasteful image of first responders doing their job in order to do the story justice.
11:42 a.m. – Dunne pronounced dead, PPIHC officials stay silent
We didn't know anything. Nobody did. I assumed Dunne might have been OK. In reality, he wasn't.
The time of his death was not made known until Monday.
PPIHC Executive Director Megan Leatham: The time of death was not called on Pikes Peak and no one informed us he passed until much later in the afternoon. Once we heard, we were in touch with his family and Ducati North America, and then we started on the press release.
11:52 a.m. – Race resumes
The race resumes following a lengthy delay. Robin Shute was the first to drive up Pikes Peak following Dunne's crash.
Dunne is dead. Nobody knows.
George: I felt like there was a cloud over the race. The day was fun and quickly turned into a terrible day. It was one of the most mentally draining events, especially since I didn't know if he was alive or dead. It was a thought I had in the back of my head the whole time.
12:30 p.m. – Teammate has no clue
I went to talk with Codie Vahsholtz, Dunne's racing teammate with Ducati North America. The two are close and spent countless days training together for the Hill Climb.
Even 48 minutes after Dunne's death, Vahsholtz thought he was alive and well.
Codie Vahsholtz: I heard from another teammate that he's going to be OK. That relieved some nerves from there.
12:58 p.m. – Family member reaches out
A member of Dunne's family reached out to Lindsey and was unaware of Dunne's status, even though he had already died. The Gazette updated the family member with what Vahsholtz said in the prior interview.
Lindsey: Since there was no official information from Pikes Peak officials, I had 10 different people ask me via Twitter what was going on regarding Dunne.
1:55 p.m. – Another message from Dunne's inner circle
Nearly an hour after the first message, Lindsey received another. This time it was from another person close to Dunne's family stating the racer died in the accident.
3:37 p.m. – Everyone must leave summit
Pikes Peak officials announced on Twitter that the Hill Climb was going to a shortened course due to weather. Everyone on the mountain was quickly rushed to their vehicles , ultimately separating themselves from the scene of Dunne's accident.
3:37 p.m. – Media is informed of Dunne's death
At the exact same time as Pikes Peak officials were intently moving racers and media to their vehicles, an announcement hit the email accounts of those covering the race. The radio also reported the news at the same time: Dunne was dead.
From the moment Dunne crashed to the time he died, 73 minutes passed.
From the moment Dunne was pronounced dead to the time his death was announced, 162 minutes passed.
July 1 – No new information released
July 2, 2:40 p.m. – Dunne's accident information announced
It had been nearly 48 hours since the media was informed of Dunne's death when Pikes Peak officials sent out a press release regarding the internal investigation of the fatality. The report said there were no signs of mechanical failure, but "it appears that the rider highsided coming into the last turn before the finish line," the statement said.
Highsiding is when there is a quick jolt of the bike around the steering axis point.
The report said nothing about a bump in the road at the spot where Dunne went down – though a bump was mentioned Sunday by other racers, Vahsholtz, Lucy Glöckner and Chris Fillmore, and such a bump can cause a highside accident.
Vahsholtz: I would call it a whoops section. It's pretty smooth until you get to where Carlin went down.
Glöckner: The end of the complete track, like the last one or two miles, it's really dangerous for the bikes, and the cars. But you never control the bike because the bumps are so deep and you want smooth and fast.
Fillmore: There are a lot of bumps. This whole course, that's what makes this place unique. It's not a polished track where everything is perfect. You're battling the road and the conditions that are served up.
Race officials said they didn't consider stopping the race after word of Dunne's death.
George Stoia contributed to this story.