The investigation opened by the Rimini public prosecutor's office into the death of Shoya Tomizawa is drawing to a close, according to reports by the Italian press agency ANSA. The charges of culpable homicide (equivalent to criminally negligent manslaughter) which had been brought against "persons unknown" are likely to be dropped, the reports say. The autopsy on the 19-year-old Japanese rider revealed that Tomizawa had in fact been dead on arrival at the Ospedale Ceccarini di Riccione hospital, having died in the ambulance during the short journey to the circuit. The cause of death was identified as chest trauma, Tomizawa's lungs and heart having been irreparably damaged in the impact.
The investigation will now center on whether all reasonable steps had been taken to provide the best possible care for Tomizawa, and that everything that could be done to save the Technomag CIP rider's life had been done. The investigation is likely to focus on the treatment Tomizawa received at trackside and in the Clinica Mobile before being sent to the hospital. Once that investigation has been completed, the case will be closed officially.
The revelation that Tomizawa was already dead on arrival at the hospital brings into doubt the official time of death released by Dorna and the authorities on Sunday. According to the official statement released by Dorna, Tomizawa died at 2:19, after the hospital staff had attempted to resuscitate the Japanese rider. That does not appear to be the case, though. Fiat Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo claims in a blog post that he had been told that Tomizawa was dead before he left his motorhome to go to the grid, "by a reliable source." If true, this would put Tomizawa's death somewhere between 1:30pm and 1:50pm, at least half an hour before the official pronouncement was made. However, given the swirl of rumor and speculation that immediately started in the paddock after Tomizawa's crash, the reliability of even the most reliable sources may be in question.
However, the doubt over the time of Tomizawa's death brings back bad memories of the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994. The Brazilian Formula One legend was killed in a crash at Imola, suffering massive brain injuries during the race. Senna was given an emergency tracheotomy and then transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead later on. Suspicions continue that Senna was actually already dead at Imola, and his vital signs were being sustained artificially, to circumvent an arcane Italian law that states that when anyone dies at a sporting event, a full investigation has to be opened, bringing the event immediately to a halt, and leaving the organizers to deal with tens and even hundreds of thousands of irate fans.
The unintended consequences of that law is that organizations have a vested interest in people not dying at events, but in nearby hospitals or in ambulances and helicopters on their way to hospital. No such case has ever been proven, either in the Senna investigation or elsewhere, nor is there any suggestion that this might be the case for Tomizawa. However, the law certainly provides a perverse incentive to organizers when tragedy does strike.