First, a disclaimer. Ayrton Senna was my hero. I am a chest surgeon, and I do some trauma work, and have had an interest in both the life and death of Senna. If you are at all squeamish, DON'T look at these photos of Senna's helmet after the crash.
For those that are interested, Dr. Sid Watkins was the medical head of F1 for many years, and was himself a neurosurgeon. He was a close friend of Ayrton Senna, and was the doctor seen tending to him directly at the trackside. He wrote of this experience in his book "Life at the Limit":
"We supported Ayrton's neck and removed his helmet," he wrote. "He looked serene. I raised his eyelids and it was clear from his pupils that he had a massive brain injury. We lifted him from the cockpit and laid him on the ground.
"As we did, he sighed and although I am totally agnostic, I felt his soul departed at that moment."
He performed a trackside tracheostomy right there as Senna had ceased breathing to secure his airway with a likely high spinal/base of skull injury. That in and of itself is not an easy feat, I can tell you. Sid actually saved Mika Hakkinen at Adelaide in 1995 when he performed the same trackside trach. The man was good.
Senna died, according to his MDs, of 1) penetrating injury to the frontal lobe (probably from the broken suspension piece when the R front wheel came loose) 2) basilar skull fx 3) Axonal shear from the contra-coup "whiplash" effect of the brain slamming back opposite the forward impact. It was #3 that caused them to turn off all life support, when brain swelling became a problem.
Axonal shear is what ultimately undoes many many high speed auto and motorcycle crash victims, and there is very very little we can do for it. No medical care system on the planet could have fixed that---unlike Lady Diana, who died unnecessarily, but that's a whole DIFFERENT story that almost nobody knows...what a screw up that was.
Like I said, don't look at these if you are squeamish.
The first photo shows the helmet with the visor down. The hole you see in the upper left of the photo is NOT the one related to the penetrating injury-- that is simply a front plastic vent piece that popped out during the impact. Focus instead on the two opposing yellow arrows below this; they outline the puncture of the visor itself. Second photo shows Ayrton's skull injuries, and the final photo graphically demonstrates the severe impact on the right front of the helmet, causing signifcant deformity. These injuries were just too devastating for him to have any reasonable chance of recovery, but F1 is better now because of his death. We now have the safety tethers on the wheels to prevent them flying off and causing mayhem. The HANS units help prevent cervical spine and base of skull fractures. The sidewalls of the cars have been built up around the vulnerable drivers' heads.
Senna did not die in vain. The drivers can thank him every day now they live horrifying crashes, like Kubica's crash at Canada last year.
I know I quietly pay tribute from the driver's seat of the car you so carefully tested, influenced, and loved.