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Workers push overturned off-road race truck upright ...
Workers push an overturned off-road race truck upright Sunday after it went out of control and plowed into a crowd of spectators during a race earlier in Lucerne Valley, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010. At least eight people were killed during the incident about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Francis Specker)
Emergency workers look at an off-highway vehicle that lost control and barreled into a crowd of spectators on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010 at an off-road race called the California 200 being held at Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area, killing eight people and leaving 12 wounded, authorities said.
(AP Photo/Kris Reilly - Victor Valley Daily Press)
8 dead, 12 hurt at off-road race in California Desert Race: California 200
By ANDREW DALTON (AP) AP Radio correspondent Shirley Smith in Washington contributed to this report.
[[First Reports indicate the driver fled the scene. BRN]]
AP/LOS ANGELES — 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 Center.
"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."
Conklin said he "saw one woman with a major head wound 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 Press-Enterprise.
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 investigation.
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 trial.
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.
Officials confirmed that eight people died and 12 were injured in the Lucerne Valley area Saturday when the driver of an off-road vehicle plowed into a crowd.
Authorities believe the driver lost control of the vehicle during some type of race at a dry lake bed. [Updated at 12:00 a.m.: The accident occurred at the California 200 race, one of a series of local offroad matches in the area.]
Fire dispatch supervisor Tim Franke said the accident was reported at 7:48 p.m. at Soggy Dry Lake Bed, a popular off-road spot. "It's unknown what kind of event was going on out there," he said.
Franke said at least four people were seriously injured and were taken by air ambulance to nearby trauma centers.
He said it was not yet clear how the accident occurred or whether the driver was among the injured or dead.
The Lucerne Valley and surrounding desert areas is considered a mecca for off-road racing, with numerous pro races through the year. Videos of previous events show vehicles speeding by rows of spectators, with thin barriers between them.
[Updated, 12:32 a.m.: The California 200 night race in the Lucerne Valley area, off Bessemer Mine Road, was promoted by MDR Productions of South El Monte. A flyer listed on a website indicated that fees to enter the race ranged from $200 to $440.
According to the website, the race was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., and involved four 50-mile laps, with a time limit of 7-1/2 hours. A registration list showed that 87 drivers had registered for the race.]"
From the PlayBill:
"Mojave Desert Racing Event
Name: California 200 (Night Race)
Date: Saturday, August 14, 2010
Drivers Meeting: 6:30 PM
Line Up: 7:00 PM
Race Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Lucerne Valley, CA
Start/Finish: Off Bessemer Mine Road at Soggy Dry Lake
Course Length: 50 Miles
Number of Laps: 4
3 Laps for Classes: 300, 900, 12-Unlimited, 1200, 1300, 1450, 1700, 3700
2 Laps for Classes: 1100, 1900
Time Limit: 7.5 Hours"
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Original Lead Dated February 5, 2010:
KILLED BY RACERS
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