A family involved in the horror cycling crash during the Commonwealth Games say they came “close to a complete catastrophe” that could have “seriously injured or killed” their two young children.
On the final lap of a qualifying heat for the men’s scratch race on Sunday, a high-speed collision involving several riders resulted in England’s Matt Walls being catapulted over the barriers and into the crowd with his bike.
The incident has led to calls from Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Laura Kenny for improvements to velodrome safety, with Hoy saying it is a “disgrace” that there are not protective screens at venues.
Walls flew into the front two rows of the stands, where Hugh Colvin was sitting with his two younger children, aged five and seven, and some family friends.
“It all happened so incredibly quickly at the speed the cyclists were going,” Mr Colvin told BBC Sport.
“You can see the trajectory of the bike, it came through, grazed my daughter’s shoulder, and one of the photos you can see we are obviously underneath the wheel.
“I was facing the other way because I’d turned my head, but looking back at the photos it must have been within centimetres, millimeters, of our heads and obviously close enough to graze my daughter.”
He added that where Walls’ bike landed was in the two seats where his five-year-old son and his friend’s son had been sitting, before they moved back a row to get a better view.
For Hugh’s wife, Laura, who was not at the velodrome, it has sunk in over the past few days how much worse it could have been.
“What has been quite hard for us to get our head around is being able to see from the photographs that were taken of the incident exactly how close this came to being a complete catastrophe,” she said.
“And how close our two younger children came to being seriously injured or killed. And that has been the main thing we’ve had to reflect on over the last few days.”
Contrary to an early statement from the organizers that no members of the public required hospital treatment, a friend who attended the event with the Colvins is awaiting surgery for a serious arm injury.
“He suffered a laceration to the bone which the hospital have described as being like a machete injury,” said Mrs Colvin.
“It’s been really difficult for him, he’s still waiting for surgery. In addition to the soft tissue and muscle injury he’s got a partially severed tendon in his arm, so it is the start of a long road to recovery for him.”
They said the three children were deeply concerned about the condition of the three cyclists – Walls, the Isle of Man’s Matt Bostock and Canada’s Derek Gee – who went to hospital after the crash.
On Monday, Walls video-called the Colvins’ daughter, which he said was a “massive step forward” in helping her come to terms with what she had seen.
The Colvins praised the quick response of volunteers, paramedics and team coaches who helped them in the aftermath of the crash.
However, the family want the incident to trigger a review of velodrome safety, to give them the reassurance that “no family is ever going to find themselves in our situation”.
They said they were “completely unaware” that a cyclist had ever flown off the track before.
“If we had known for a moment that there was a risk that a bike with an adult male going at that speed could come into contact with my seven-year-old daughter, my family would never have been there,” said Mrs Colvin.
Bostock, who is still hoping to compete in Sunday’s road race, told BBC Sport: “There has to be something done because it’s going down as a freak accident, but it has happened before.
“I don’t know how many freak accidents become a normal accident. I dread to think if it had been worse. It should be a proactive decision to try and make it safer before it’s a terrible accident.”
A Birmingham 2022 spokesperson said they had been in regular contact with the Colvin family and apologised for any upset the initial wording of their statement had caused.
They said “a full and detailed accident investigation is already under way and we will pass our findings on to the relevant parties”.
Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, said the venue complies with international regulations and that an accident of this kind has never taken place there before.
He added: “We appreciate that this was a shocking experience for those involved and we offer our heartfelt best wishes to all those involved.”