Angelo Orsi's photos of Ayrton Senna (lost photos of Formula One driver post-crash; 1994)
On 1st May 1994, Formula One driver Ayrton Senna crashed into an unprotected concrete barrier at the Tamburello corner at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The impact resulted in Senna's death in hospital a few hours later. Post-crash, photographer Angelo Orsi appeared on the scene and took photos of Senna in the car and after his helmet was taken off. These photos have never been released to the public.
Senna's crash occurred on the seventh lap of the San Marino Grand Prix, where his Williams left the track at the Tamburello corner and crashed into the concrete barrier at 130mph. Senna suffered a multitude of injuries. The Williams' right front wheel entered the cockpit and struck the right frontal area of his helmet, the impact of which caused his head to be forced back onto the headrest, causing skull fractures. A piece of the wheel's suspension also detached and penetrated the helmet, causing fatal head trauma. Just one of these injuries alone would have been enough to kill him.
As Senna laid motionless in his car, Angelo Orsi, the only known cameraman already situated at the Tamburello corner when the accident occurred, leaped over the wall opposite the corner and arrived to the scene of the crash. He was the picture editor of Italian racing magazine Autosprint, and a close friend of Senna. According to The Life of Senna, Orsi took close-up photos of Senna while he motionless in the destroyed Williams. Photos were also taken of Senna after his helmet was removed, and when he was being treated by medical personnel on the ground. The photos were extremely graphic in nature, when considering that Senna lost 4.5 litres of blood following him suffering a burst temporal artery, which caused blood to soak from the car and onto the track.
At 6:40pm, Senna was officially declared dead. Around midnight, Orsi returned to Autosprint's developing room to analyse the photos, where he was confident the photos were unlikely to be published in any magazine. Galvão Bueno, the Brazilian commentator for the Grand Prix and another close friend of Senna, had watched Orsi take the photos live on-air. He claimed that Orsi "aimed and shot, without even seeing exactly what he was getting." He was also the one to inform the Senna family of the photos' existence. Family members, as well as Senna's girlfriend Adriane Kelemen Galisteu are known to have been the only people to have seen the pictures. Consequentially, representatives of the Senna family immediately requested Orsi never allow anyone else to view the photos, with Orsi respecting their wishes to this day.
Graphic photos of Senna's accident are publicly available to view. However, Orsi's collection have remained withheld from the public as of the present day. According to The Life of Senna, they are likely within a safe within Autosprint's office. Orsi and Autosprint are known to have been offered large financial offers, at least more than $100,000, for the rights of the photos. Bueno, who greatly respected Orsi for his decision not to release the photos, stated that some agencies were among those who offered money for the photos, but ultimately all these offers have been rejected by Orsi with the support of Autosprint higher-ups. Thus, the photos are unlikely to ever see the light of day.
According to Ayrton The Magic, at least one photo is known to be permanently irrecoverable. Depicting Senna without his helmet, it is known that Autosprint director Carlo Cavicchi received a call from Orsi, requesting its destruction. Cavicchi respected the decision and thus the photograph is no longer known to exist. Whether the other photos ultimately suffered the same fate is unknown.
- Sports Pro Media discussing what led to Senna's death. Retrieved 15 Aug '21
- The Life of Senna, discussing the photos being taken and the decision to never release them to the public. Retrieved 15 Aug '21
- Sporskeeda discussing Senna's blood loss. Retrieved 15 Aug '21
- Senna fan website discussing Senna being declared dead at 6:40pm. Retrieved 15 Aug '21
- 8w discussing the photos and the request made by Senna's family to never release them. Retrieved 15 Aug '21
- Ayrton The Magic, discussing Senna's relationship with Orsi and the destruction of one photo. Retrieved 15 Aug '21