8 dead, 12 hurt at off-road race in Calif. desert

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August 15, 2010, 6:39 am
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LOS ANGELES (AP) - An off-road truck plowed into a crowd and
scattered "bodies everywhere" moments after sailing off a jump at
a California race Saturday, killing eight people and leaving 12
injured, authorities and witnesses said.
The crash came shortly after the start of the 8 p.m. PDT race
called the California 200, said San Bernardino County sheriff's
spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.
      Bachman said eight people died and 12 were injured, several of
them seriously. Seven ambulances and 10 emergency aircraft
responded to the scene. Most of the injured were airlifted from the
area to Loma Linda University Medical Center or St. Mary's Medical
"There was dust everywhere, people screaming, people running,"
David Conklin, a photographer covering the event for off-road
magazines, told The Associated Press.
Conklin said the Prerunner truck was among the first 20 off the
line in the race, and had just gone over a jump known as "the
rockpile" about two miles into the race.
He said he watched the vehicle sail through the air. Then he
turned to watch for other cars when he heard the commotion caused
by the crash.
"When I got up to the vehicle I could tell that several people
were trapped. There were just bodies everywhere," he said. "One
woman with a major head wound (was) lying in a pool of blood.
Someone else was crushed beneath the car."
The truck came to a rest upside down with its oversized wheels
pointing toward the sky.
Officials said the driver wasn't hurt but had to flee the scene
to escape angry spectators.
      The 200-mile race is part of a series held in Soggy Dry Lake Bed
near the city of Lucerne Valley in the Mojave Desert, 100 miles
northeast of Los Angeles.
Tens of thousands of people attend the California 200, in which
a variety of off-road vehicles take jumps and other obstacles and
reach speeds up to 100 mph on the 50-mile off-road course. The race
had been scheduled to last through the night.
The crowd was standing within 10 feet of the track with no guard
rails separating them from the speeding vehicles.
"There were no barriers at all," Jeff Talbott, inland division
chief for the California Highway Patrol, told the Riverside
He said that the driver, who wasn't named, was forced to run
from the scene when the crowd grew unruly and some began throwing
rocks at him. It was not clear why he lost control of the truck.
The CHP does not normally investigate crashes at organized
races, but took the lead on this probe because of its scope and had
set up a command center at the starting line of the race.
The federal Bureau of Land Management was assisting in the
The event was sponsored by the South El Monte-based Mojave
Desert Racing. No one picked up the phone at a number listed on the
group's website early Sunday, and its message mailbox was full.
The crash was the latest in a series of race accidents that have
proved deadly to spectators.
A car plowed into a crowd that had gathered to watch an illegal
drag race on a suburban road in Accokeek, Maryland, in February
2008, killing eight people and injuring five. The two racers were
charged with vehicular manslaughter. Darren Bullock, 22, was
sentenced to 15 years in prison; Tavon Taylor, 20, is awaiting

In Chandler, Ariz., in February, a female spectator was killed
by a tire that flew off a crashing dragster at Chandler's Firebird
International Raceway for the NHRA Arizona Nationals.
In Selmer, Tennessee, a dragster went out of control and smashed
into spectators during a fundraising festival in June 2007, killing
six people and injuring 22. Driver Troy Critchley, 38, was
convicted of misdemeanor reckless assault charges and sentenced to
18 months probation.
AP Radio correspondent Shirley Smith in Washington contributed
to this report.
 (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Tags: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, California road race
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