Sophia Floersch ‘lucky to be alive’ after Macau Grand Prix crash with paralysis feared before 10 hours of surgery
- The Formula Three driver ‘had an angel on her shoulder’
- Van Amersfoort Racing owner says ‘surviving was incredible’
Sophia Floersch’s racing team boss has said the teenage Formula Three driver is lucky to be alive after her horror crash at the Macau Grand Prix.
The 17-year-old fractured her spine in Sunday’s race when her car flew into the air and over the crash barriers, tearing through the safety fencing and hitting a photographer’s tribune at high speed.
“It was nearly a rocket. Surviving was incredible. We reckon she was travelling at 276km/h at the time,” Frits van Amersfoort, the owner of Van Amersfoort Racing, told the BBC.
The Dutchman said Floersch must have had an “angel on her shoulder”.
Floersch lost control of her wheels after hitting the back of Jehan Daruvala’s car on the flat-out run down to the Guia Circuit’s Lisboa corner on lap four.
Her Dallara-Mercedes spun out of control towards the right-hander and was launched over the raised inside kerb into the car of Japanese driver Sho Tsuboi, catapulting Floersch’s car into a temporary stand populated by photographers.
She landed back down on the barrier at a marshal post below the tribune. One marshal, Chan Cha-in, suffered a fractured jaw and a laceration of the face and was also taken to the emergency room at Conde S. Januario General Hospital.
Japanese photographer Hiroyuki Minami was concussed as a result of the crash but has since been released, though local photographer Chan Weng-wang is expected to stay in hospital for another 10 days after suffering a liver laceration. Tsuboi was treated for back pain at the hospital but later released.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. I haven’t seen all accidents in motorsport but this was surely one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Van Amersfoort said.
“We were lucky that she was flying because she went over a barrier. If she had hit the barrier it would have gone a lot worse.”
The incident immediately brought out a red flag and the race was stopped for around an hour, with the drivers waiting in the pit lane as fans speculated on Floersch’s condition.
Van Amersfoort said the excruciating wait for a medical update was “one of the worst of my life”.
“We got some information from social media while we were waiting at the door of race control, but when you look at those images it is heartbreaking so we were thinking of the worst,” he said.
“It took quite a long time before the race control could say anything about the health of Sophia – everyone can imagine that’s not a nice thing to have.”
Floersch spent nearly 10 hours on the operating table on Monday, with the teenager posting an Twitter that her surgery was “going well”.
Bone was used from her hip to repair one of her vertebrae, and Floersch said doctors were deliberately working slowly to avoid risks.
“Everything is working and everything is in order,” Van Amersfoort said. “[Paralysis] was the main fear. That’s why the operation had to be done quite quickly because there was a danger it [her spinal cord] could be damaged.
“We are extremely happy that she is now recovering and that everything went extremely well. There’s no fear of paralysis whatsoever.”