Audio specialist was electrocuted at Chicago NASCAR course, autopsy finds; family ‘still waiting for answers’

Duane Tabinski, 53, had been hired to produce audio for “pre-race celebrations” at Chicago’s NASCAR race this weekend when he died of after contacting electrical wires, according to autopsy results. He’s survived by his wife, five children and seven grandchildren.

SHARE Audio specialist was electrocuted at Chicago NASCAR course, autopsy finds; family ‘still waiting for answers’
Kristin and Duane Tabinski

Kristin and Duane Tabinski


A contracted audio specialist who died Friday during the setup for NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race course was electrocuted, according to autopsy results released Saturday.

Duane Tabinski died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, after a witness heard him groan and found him “slumped over” in the 500 block of South Columbus, according to a Chicago police report and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Tabinski had been hired by NASCAR to produce audio for pre-race celebrations.

The witness went to help, but another worker stopped him because Tabinski, 53, was in a “padlock” area, meaning high-voltage electricity was circulating, authorities said. Paramedics weren’t able to treat him until the danger was “diffused,” the police report said.

An autopsy Saturday found he died of accidental contact with electrical wires.

The Tennessee resident’s family was “still waiting for answers” Saturday, saying that “not a lot of information” on Tabinski’s abrupt death had been shared with them.

“We are overwhelmingly devastated by the loss of Duane,” his wife of eight years, Kristin Tabinski, wrote in an email to the Sun-Times. “He was so excited to help fans ‘feel’ the action and his crew is going to ensure that the show will go on this weekend.”

Representatives for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

NASCAR officials called it “a fatal medical emergency” and shared “our condolences to the family and their loved ones.”

Kristin Tabinski described her husband — a native of Hermitage, Tennessee — as “kind” and “loving,” as well as “viciously funny.” It was that latter trait which initially drew her to him, from his impressions of comedians like Ralphie May to his fondness for Monty Python.

He also “never met a problem he couldn’t solve,” leading his wife to nickname him “MacGyver.”

Duane and Kristin Tabinski

Duane and Kristin Tabinski


Tabinski had a winding journey to founding his own audio production company, which followed stints driving trucks, logging, running a restaurant, drumming and working as a DJ.

He committed to audio engineering 2006 and “made a name [for himself] in the industry,” his wife said.

“His ability to mix audio was exceptional and his talent made so many shows, festivals and events so enjoyable for everyone,” Kristin wrote in the email. “He had the best ear in the business.”

Tabinski’s eponymous company, DUANE, had helped with the production of major performers including Toby Keith, Boston and Katy Perry.

When he wasn’t working in the various industries, his wife said the two traveled to see friends and family, which included his nine siblings, five children and seven grandchildren. He also spent time doting on his dogs Forrest and Henry.

“He was the most amazing human being who ever existed,” his wife wrote in the email. “He was perfect for me.”

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