Doctor responds to Correa’s claim “nobody from the FIA was concerned about me” after Spa crash

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A doctor who attended to Juan Manuel Correa following his crash at Spa-Francorchamps last year has responded to his claim he was ignored by the FIA in the days afterwards.

The crash, on Saturday during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, claimed the life of Correa’s Formula 2 rival Anthoine Hubert. Correa spent three weeks in an induced coma, regained consciousness, but now faces a long wait to discover whether the extensive injuries to his right foot will fully heal.

In an interview with German television NTV earlier this week, Correa described the seriousness of his condition after the crash and suggested it had been overlooked by the sport’s governing body in the days that followed.

“The day after the accident everybody travelled to Monza,” said Correa, “but I stayed in hospital and almost died four days after the accident. Nobody from the FIA or elsewhere was concerned about me.”

“The reason I almost died was because of the enormous G forces that could only result from an accident of that severity,” he added. “The doctors in the hospital in Belgium did not know what [the symptoms] were because they had never seen anybody who had survived such heavy forces.”

The chief medical officer at Spa, doctor Christian Wahlen, described the care Correa received immediately following the crash to RaceFans.

“Juan Manuel Correa received immediate medical attention at the scene of the accident, administered by the circuit-appointed doctor who is an experienced anaesthetist,” said Wahlen.

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“The activities of medical staff attending the accident were coordinated by FIA deputy F1 medical delegate and F1 rescue coordinator doctor Ian Roberts. Juan Manuel received continuous care as he was transported by ambulance to the track medical centre. On arrival he was stabilised by the trauma team, who are under my responsibility as chief medical officer for this grand prix.

Juan Manuel Correa, Sauber by Charouz, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019
Correa’s car struck Hubert’s on lap two of the Spa feature race
“After consulting with doctor Alain Chantegret, FIA F1 medical delegate, it was clear from the nature of his injuries that Juan Manuel needed to be transferred immediately by helicopter to the care of the Center Hospitalier Universitaire Liège (CHU Liège) to receive more specialist medical and operative care.”

Wahlen, a general surgeon, has been the chief medical officer at Spa since 1985 and a member of the FIA’s medical commission for 25 years. He said he and FIA institute president Gérard Saillant updated Correa’s family on developments in his condition in the days that followed.

“In my role as chief medical officer and as an FIA medical delegate, I remained in constant contact with the hospital and also visited Juan Manuel on Monday 2nd September, where he was recovering well from the surgery to his feet,” said Wahlen. “That same day, Gérard Saillant contacted Juan Manuel’s father, Juan Carlos Correa, to assure them that he was at their disposal.

“On Tuesday morning Juan Manuel developed symptoms indicating a respiratory problem. On the same day, the Correa family took the decision to transfer him to a specialist clinic at a hospital in London to receive orthopaedic treatment to his right foot at the earliest opportunity.”

Correa subsequently moved to London and later returned to Miami to continue his recovery.

RaceFans understands that the FIA will communicate its findings of the investigation into the Spa crash imminently.

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    Dieter Rencken
    Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 21 comments on “Doctor responds to Correa’s claim “nobody from the FIA was concerned about me” after Spa crash”

    1. Not the first time Gérard Saillant has been at the centre of miscommunication claims.

    2. It may be true. It may also be a young person with deep trauma lashing out. It should be taken as an indication that more emotional healing needs to take place. I wish him and his family peace through their journey forward.

    3. Well, that is good to read, and it might be that Correa (and his family?) would have felt fear and the loneliness was from not having visibility into what the FIA medical team was doing in the background to take care of him. I sure hope so, because that interview was quite shocking, but I do wonder how that squares with him describing the doctors weren’t sure how to best treat him, out of unfamiliarity with high-G accidents. I suppose we will have to await the imminent results of the Spa inquiry.

      Given this matter, and also how the Bianci family seemingly felt, I do think that perhaps the FIA (though maybe not the chief medic who is needed at the next race?) might think about how to give drivers and their loved ones a clearer feeling of being supported and heard in such a fraught time as the immediate, and later post-accident time. Follow-up is hard, but it can help a lot.

    4. Nobody from the FIA or elsewhere was concerned about me.

      One of the consequences of a traumatic event is to get angry, and also at times to have feelings of denial. Sadly, I do wonder if this is the case here. Maybe on another day he’d have said things that praised the FIA for insisting on having ambulances, a helicopter, medical crews, marshals with yellow flags, rules and protocols, Stewards ready to punish people for not slowing down around accidents, etc. There’s a delay of seconds between a crash and those in control of the race being alerted about it. These things seem small, but they came at the price of lives and money. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those people who were in attendance at the race track that day were underpaid, or even giving the time there for free. So it cost those people to be there on the off chance an emergency would happen, and on that day it did.
      I suspect there are cheap or free “follow up” services available to Jean because of his serious accident if he were to look around.
      My apologies for sounding cold hearted, but ultimately the responsibility of getting on with life is Jean’s. I really hope he takes the time to consider thanking those who helped him. Right now, somewhere in the world, someone has been involved in a motor vehicle accident and is dying on the side of a road or in the back of an ambulance.

      1. Couldn’t have put it better. There is always room for improvement but ‘Motorsport is dangerous’ the drivers know this more than anyone. From the stewards to the medical team they are prepared for, but not hoping for the worst, and most of them are doing a low paid or volunteer roll in a circus that generates over a billion dollars a year because they love the sport. If your going to complain about the support post accident, that saved your life then go and play tiddlywinks. You knew this was possible, however much you hoped it would never happen. Its not the crash that kills but the sudden stop at the end, don’t blame the support team you t…….

        1. Richard, as noted in the article, Correa has questioned whether the staff at that medical facility were adequately trained to deal with people who have suffered from injuries in high-G events. Against that, we have Wahlen stating that Correa was transferred to a facility that could offer “more specialist medical and operative care”, though what exactly that entailed is not explicitly stated.

          1. And moreover, that transfer happened, according to Correa, after he had the biggest crisis, ie. possibly a crisis that could have been prevented by a team with more knowledge about his injuries, whixh means the transfer was at least in part to fix what might have been prevented.

            @drycrust, what you say might well be true, but just because the sport is dangerous, that shouldn’t mean that if one gets hurt, one should not have the best care possible. Here, it seems that care wasn’t organized well enough, which is something the FIA could improve – they organize those dangerous activities, they have a lot of measures to try and make them safer, and prevent harm for those involved, at high monetary cost, why skimp here if there is room for improvement when an actual accident has occurred?

            1. He developed serious respiratory problems but the family decided to move him. Does not sound very smart to me.

            2. erikje, it depends on whether the facility where he had originally been taken for treatment was best equipped to deal with his problems. If there was the prospect of specialist treatment at a facility that was better equipped to deal with that sort of issue, then moving him to that alternative facility would be a sensible decision.

      2. I totally agree with Stephen (although the lad is called Juan not Jean lol), I think the same, he’s just upset, bitter, confused etc. He was so ill he didn’t realise what was going on in the background & it’s just so good the London hospital stepped forward & realises that the Belgian hospital were just going to leave him to suddenly die! (of course not on purpose as Juan said, they just didn’t have any knowledge, but surely doesn’t take much research to be fair, since London knew exactly what would happen & what he did need). Juan has just got too much time on his hands to think! I know it would’ve been the closeD season now anyway for him, but of course he is trying to fight to recover the horrible injuries & not prepare for a new season & it’s probably just playing tricks on him & frustrating him, he’s only young too & just wants to race. I’m sure he didn’t really mean what he said & the crash involving a death probably isn’t helping him. I’m glad things have been clarified FIA side & I know people who give their time as marshals- fire marshals, medical marshals, flag marshals etc & they really do work so hard, it’s their life, even though they don’t get paid for it & have other jobs besides!

        1. although the lad is called Juan not Jean lol

          Oppps … most humble apologies to Juan, I should have double checked that too.

    5. Seems very odd to aim a bit of a cheap shot at the very people that saved your life, but there you go. Bit disappointing.

      1. I disagree with him but I’ll let it slide cos he has been through an extremely traumatic event (with permanent consequences) that has greatly altered his life and that can color one’s perception.

        I think je us just angry at the situation and the FIA is one of the easiest targets.

      2. The boy had a life changing injury but he should be grateful for the life he still has, the Hubert family don’t have that luxury.

        1. Sorry, that wasn’t meant as a reply to you.

    6. I find the response by the fia doctor slightly lacking in applicability to the complaint.

      1. Well, doctors aren’t allowed to communicate much on the patients’ condition. GDPR applies… And I can assure you that Belgium is a civilesed country with impeccable medical treatment. I was quite shocked when Correa was transferred to London when his condition wasn’t really allowing this. Ask any doctor about this situation. Little chance they would advice positively on such a risk.
        By the way, I’ve seen a few miracles done by the CHU in Liège from my time in motorsport.

    7. These tiffs are to be expected by all parties. I think this will in time, be looked at constructively, rather than just emotionally.

    8. All I’m going to say about this here is: Bookmark this. There will be a test later – most likely involving lawyers. (I’m not sure how much more I want to say here, having just realised that this likely is going to come to “lawyers” sooner or later – something I had hoped would not occur).

    9. It’s not like Hubert wouldn’t be able if Correa wouldn’t be so greedy about his position. And now he play a victim.

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