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Widow of Man Killed at 1987 Indy 500 Settles Lawsuit

March 8, 1990 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The widow of a Wisconsin spectator killed when he was struck by a wheel at the 1987 Indianapolis 500 has settled her lawsuit against the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Lyle G. Kurtenbach, 41, of Rothchild, Wis., died of massive head injuries after being hit by a wheel that broke loose from a race car and flew into the grandstands on May 24, 1987.

Karen Kurtenbach Bentz, now remarried and living in Wausau, Wis., filed a $9 million wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis against the Speedway, the United States Auto Club, March Engineering, BBS of America, driver Tony Bettenhausen and the Bettenhausen Racing Team.

A pretrial hearing in the case was scheduled for Friday in U.S. District Court, but a settlement was reached Feb. 23, said her attorney, William Winingham.

″As part of the agreement, the settlement cannot be disclosed,″ Winingham said. ″I think she’s pleased to get it over with and she’s happy with the settlement.″

The couple was sitting in the top row of the grandstand between Turns 3 and 4 when a wheel from Bettenhausen’s car came loose. Driver Roberto Guerrero’s car, traveling about 200 mph, collided with the wheel and shot it over a protective fence. The 25-pound wheel struck Kurtenbach as he sat in the grandstand.

The lawsuit charged the car and wheel were defective and spectators were not adequately informed of potential dangers. It also claimed USAC did not inspect the cars well enough and did not have enough safety barriers around the oval track.

Kurtenbach’s death was the first spectator fatality at the track since 1960.