Flaggers at Road Atlanta’s Turn 7 were back at work Sunday in memory of Hazel Harrell, a friend and co-worker who died trying to help an injured motorcycle rider just one day before.
“We were the very best flaggers we could be,” Sandy Lewis said. “She was in the forefront of our thoughts the whole time.”
Harrell, 60, of Gainesville, was at her usual Turn 7 at the track Saturday, working an event for the Western Eastern Racing Association’s Motorcycle Roadracing.
Deputy Stephen Wilbanks, a spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, said Harrell “was attempting to cross the track to assist an injured rider who’d gone down in a turn,” when the accident occurred.
Wilbanks said the track was under a yellow flag, telling riders to slow down, and was in the process of going to a red flag, where riders stop. He added that not all of the riders had come to a stop when Harrell went to help the injured rider.
Wilbanks said a witness reported that Harrell “either stumbled and fell or possibly twisted an ankle while crossing the track. One motorcycle was able to swerve and avoid her, but the rider immediately behind that one was unable to see her until the first bike took evasive action; there wasn’t enough time for that rider to react, and that bike is the one that struck the victim.”
Wilbanks said the case is being investigated as an accidental death.
Lewis, who said she had known Harrell for six or seven years, was working at the same turn with Harrell Saturday and said the fact Harrell died trying to help someone else was “as her personality would dictate. She was always putting someone in front of herself.”
“She was strong-headed, strong-willed, put everybody in front of herself, sweet, feisty,” Lewis said. “I absolutely adored her, and everybody who knew her did. She trained almost every flagger that’s at Road Atlanta right now. It’s going to take a while for all of us to process it and get to the point when we can accept it,” Lewis said of her friend’s death.
Harrell was engaged to Kory Chandler, also of Gainesville, according to Lewis.
Harrell’s death grieved many others at Road Atlanta.
Geoff Lee, president and general manager of Road Atlanta, said he was not at the track when the accident occurred but arrived after hearing the news.
“It’s a sad day for all of us,” Lee said. “Hazel had been an institution here for almost 20 years.”
Lewis added that tentative plans call for a memorial service to be held at Turn 7 at Road Atlanta, but a date and time have not been set.
Lewis started a Gofundme page that had already raised nearly $16,000 by Monday afternoon.
“I am just absolutely amazed, and I feel like we are truly blessed with having so many kind, sweet, wonderful people within the racing community,” Lewis said.”I knew that the family could use the help financially to pay off any final medical bills and funeral expenses and stuff like that.”