The district attorney for the New York county of Ontario has announced that the official report into the death of sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. will be put before a grand jury to decide on whether there would be any criminal charges.

Ward died when he was struck by the car of Tony Stewart shortly after an accident between the two had put Ward out of a regional dirt track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on August 9. Ward had walked back down onto the race track to remonstrate with Stewart when he was struck by Stewart's car and subsequently died of massive blunt force trauma.

The fatal accident has since been under investigation by Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero, who presented his final report into the matter at the end of last week. Among the evidence submitted to the prosecutor was forensically enhanced video footage of the accident taken by a spectator as well as interviews with sprint car racing experts and professionals.

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"Upon my review of all of the information contained in the entire investigation, I have made the determination that it would be appropriate to submit the evidence to a grand jury for their determination as to what action should be taken in this matter," said the district attorney Michael Tantillo on Tuesday.

"Accordingly, the evidence developed in the investigation will be presented to an Ontario County grand jury in the near future," he continued. "As grand jury proceedings in New York State are strictly confidential by law, I am unable to state when the matter will be scheduled, other than to state that I intend to present the matter in the near future.

"Similarly, because of the confidential nature of these proceedings, I cannot state who will be called as witnesses, or what any witness's expected testimony will be. When the presentation has been completed and a determination has been made, I will advise the public and the media at that time of the results."

No further information was given at this time regarding what if any charges the state would be pressing for, or even the identify of the person or persons against whom any action might be directed. The basic fact that a report goes to the grand jury does not in itself imply any presumption of guilt on any party or of any actual wrongdoing in the matter.

Stewart will continue to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series while the grand jury deliberates, with the sanctioning body saying that there was no cause at this point to bench the driver from competition.

"We are aware of the completed investigation and the announced next steps," said NASCAR's chief communications officer Brett Jewkes. "First, our thoughts continue to be with all who have been impacted by this tragedy.

"We will monitor this process and stay in close contact with Stewart-Haas Racing. It would be inappropriate for NASCAR to comment on this case so we will continue to respect the process and authorities involved."

"I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff's Office in investigating this tragic accident," said Stewart himself, in a statement issued by SHR. "I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation."

There has been some speculation that the prosecution might be testing the strength of an indictment such as criminal negligence, a charge that could carry a jail sentence of up to four years if it were to be proven in a court. According to New York state law, such a charge arises if a death occurs as the result of a party who "fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation."

The legal system in New York allows the state prosecutor to present a case to the grand jury to decide whether or not charges should be made and against whom. The defence does not make any submissions or representations to the grand jury and there is no determination of guilt or innocence, only whether there are grounds for a prosecution. The grand jury consists of a pool of 23 people and a simple majority of 12 jurors is needed to allow a case to go forward.