Dick Brenner of Davidson vowed never to give up after a pedestrian bridge crashed to the ground at then-Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord on May 20, 2000, injuring him and 106 others.
The collapse crushed his pelvis and shattered his hip and right leg. The most critically injured of all those caught in the collapse, he remained in the hospital for nearly six months.
“All my life I have been a fairly positive guy,” Brenner told the Observer nearly a year after the collapse. “Are you going to deal with this or go in the tank? I decided to fight it. To try and regain as much of my physical ability as I can.”
Richard Frederick Brenner, a retired human resources manager with Texaco who retired to Davidson from Connecticut in 1999, died Friday at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte. He was 75.
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A year after the collapse, Brenner continued to endure daily physical therapy to repair nerve damage that left him unable to walk. He still faced two surgeries at the time, one to fix his arm, which he could no longer straighten, and the other to replace his hip.
The night of the collapse, doctors told his wife, Eileen, they could fix his hip then. But he might have died with further surgery, he told the Observer.
Brenner decided not to go back to the bridge on the one-year anniversary of the collapse.
“What does this mean?” he said of the NASCAR Cup series race’s one-year anniversary. “I had that conversation with my wife. Frankly, this is not something we will celebrate. It was a disaster. I went to bed. I did not watch the race.”
In the 2001 interview, Brenner thanked fellow members at Davidson United Methodist Church for “lifting” him in prayer every day. He was an active volunteer there and in the community, having served on the board of the Lake Norman YMCA.
“I was told by my neurosurgeons I was very close to death,” he said. “I thank God every day for giving me my life back.”
Survivors include his wife, Eileen Brenner; a son, Richard Charles Brenner, and his wife, Krista, of Half Moon Bay, Calif.; a daughter, Caroline Payne, and her husband, Glen, of Hermosa Beach, Calif.; a sister, Jacklyn Bresson; as well as three grandchildren.
The family held a private service Sunday at Eileen Brenner’s home.
James Funeral Home of Huntersville is serving the family, and online condolences can be made at www.jamesfuneralhomelkn.com.
A new walkway was built later the same year.
Staff Researcher Maria David contributed.