Demolition drivers donate entire purse to derby victim's family

Tuesday , August 19, 2014 - 5:56 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

FARMINGTON — The Davis County Fair demolition derby prize money, all $17,000 of it, will be turned over to Danyel Ewing, the widow of derby worker Bren Ewing, who was killed last Wednesday while officiating the event.

The Davis County Commission on Tuesday approved an amendment to its contract to allow the prize money to go to the Ewing family.

“In order to meet with county regulations, the commission will award the donation to Intrepid Motorsports, which will in turn provide the donation to the family,“ said Davis County Deputy Attorney Michael Kendall.

Legacy Events Center Director Dave Hansen called the action ”very generous and very classy“ on behalf of the drivers who took part in the derby.

Hansen said this year Davis County requested the county provide more prize money for the derby in an effort to attract more drivers. Based on that, the commission increased this year’s prize money over last year from $14,000 to $17,000 in total winnings.

The derby drivers following the tragedy collectively agreed to have the winnings turned over to the Ewing family, said Mike Van Alfen, owner of Intrepid Motorsports, the derby sponsor.

Due to the fatal accident, the competition was halted early before the grudge match and final heat could be run to decide a winner, Van Alfen said.

“That night, the drivers got together and wanted to donate not even knowing (the extent) of (Ewing’s) injuries,” he said.

In addition, as spectators exited the halted event, rather than grumbling, they left $1,700 in cash donations for Ewing and his family, Van Alfen said.

Ewing, 41, of Hooper was working as a safety official on the arena floor when a derby car rolled over on top of him.

One of the participating vehicles reportedly rolled over after being hit, according to a release from Davis County Sheriff authorities. Ewing ran over to the disabled vehicle to check on the driver; however, the car shifted weight and rolled on top of him.

Emergency responders were able to free Ewing from beneath the vehicle and prepared him to be flown to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials are investigating the incident.

Also, all gate proceeds from the demolition derby went to the family.

A total of $1,500 was given to Ewing’s family. Ryan Ewing, Bren’s brother, who felt burdened with medical bills and funeral expenses, was ever-grateful to receive help.

“My first thought was — thank goodness,” Ryan Ewing said with a sigh of relief, mentioning the financial struggle his brother’s family is currently enduring.

”He just had a big heart for building cars, enough that he even built cars for strangers to destroy,” said the brother who began building cars with Bren 16 years ago with their father.

“I’m shocked — blown away by the support and the help people have offered, from a grave site to their condolences,” Ryan Ewing told the Standard-Examiner in an interview, Monday. T-shirts have been made for purchase and a special bumper for demo cars was auctioned off and bought from a Montana man for $850, Ryan said excitedly.

“Thanks to everyone; the family appreciates it,” he said.

Van Alfen said he has been involved in 30 demolition derbies over the years, and he has never seen anything like this happen before.

“We were best friends,” Van Alfen said of Ewing. “This really sucks. The two of us should be out (bow) hunting.”

The night the accident occurred, Van Alfen said, he suspected it might be serious. “To me, to say the least, I lost it,” he told the Standard-Examiner in a hushed tone.

And whether he will involve himself with another derby, Van Alfen said, has yet to be decided.

“Nobody has asked,” Van Alfen said. But he suspects Bren Ewing would want their group to move forward.

Van Alfen said that a couple of times he has wanted to stop sponsoring and organizing derby events, and it was the energy of Ewing that helped push him to hold another event.

Everyone has said Ewing would want us to carry on, Van Alfen said. “It’s not a business. It’s a love of the sport,” Van Alfen said. And those who volunteer to come out and help him with the derbies, he said, are his family.

“This is my family. This is what they do,” he said.

But before Van Alfen does anything, he says he is going to take some time away from the sport before determining whether he should continue organizing demolition derbies.

An account at America First Credit Union has also been set up in the Ewing family name for anyone interested in making a donation to the family. A donation page on GoFundMe has raised nearly $4,200 as of Tuesday morning.

A 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. viewing will be held in Ewing’s honor Wednesday at Aaron’s Mortuary, 496 24th St. in Ogden. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the same location.

Interment will be at the Hooper City Cemetery, after which family and friends -- up to 200 people -- are invited to a nearby luncheon.

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton

Morgan Briesmaster contributed to this report.

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