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Spectators killed in California 200 race 'didn't have much of a chance,' CHP says

Phil photo Authorities said eight people were killed and dozens injured when a driver racing in the California 200 desert race in Lucerne Valley lost control of his off-roader, which went airborne and landed on top of  spectators.

“He got airborne and, when he landed, rolled over straight into the spectators,’’ said Officer Joaquin Zubieta of the California Highway Patrol, the agency investigating the deadly crash. “People didn’t have much of a chance … to get out of the way.’’

Six spectators died at the scene. Nine others were airlifted to local hospitals, two of whom died later in the evening, Zubieta said.

No charges have been filed against the off-road racer, whose identity has not been released by authorities. The driver had to be escorted away from the area after the crowd “started to get rowdy. People were upset,’’ Zubieta said.

The ages of those killed ranged from early 20s to late 40s. The names were withheld pending positive identification and notification of family.

The 200-mile race, held on desolate Soggy Dry Lake on federal desert land just east of the San Bernardino Mountains, was sanctioned by Mojave Desert Racing and was part of a seven-race circuit. Off-roaders race around the 50-mile-long loop four times and hit speeds topping 60 mph.

The white truck that plowed into the crowd remained at the scene, upside down, into the early-morning hours as CHP investigators crawled over the vehicle to search for any mechanical defects and to try to re-create the collision. Sponsorship decals plastered the sides of the truck.

The area was cordoned off with crime-scene tape through the night, and the CHP brought banks of lights for illumination as investigators combed over the patch of desert. Officers continued to interview witnesses, competitors and race officials well into the early-morning hours. Racing officials declined to comment about the incident.

The spot where the racer lost control was called the “rock pile.’’ The track snakes between giant boulders and up a small hill -– sending many of the off-roaders airborne.

On Saturday, hundreds of spectators had crowded around the site where the vehicle landed, some just a few feet from the main dirt track. Empty beer bottles and water bottles littered the area where the deadly incident occurred.

Because of the remote location, rescue units took more than half an hour to reach the racetrack, spurring  spectators and racing officials to tend to the wounded and dying until help arrived.

The only way to reach the dry lake bed, a popular area for off-roaders, is on a six-mile dirt road off California 247. Hundreds of campers were lined up around the track, housing both contestants and spectators.

-- Phil Willon in Lucerne Valley


Driver in California 200 crash says he is 'devastated'

 California 200 and other races foster dangerous 'Mad Max' atmosphere, critics say

Driver in California 200 crash identified by authorities

3 Escondido men among 8 killed in California 200 crash
California 200 tragedy: Past race videos show spectators dangerously close to racing vehicles

Updated, 9:34 a.m.: Witnesses describe horrific scene of California 200 crash that killed eight

Earlier: 8 dead, 12 hurt as vehicle plows into crowd at race in San Bernardino County

Photos, from top: The scene after the California 200 crash. Credit: Associated Press. The car involved in the incident. Credit: Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times.  At one point, workers pushed the truck upright. Credit: Associated Press. See more photos from the fatal California 200 crash here.

Comments () | Archives (93)

This was probably the white truck in question:

And here is his myspace page:


San Bernardino County banned all raves after one girl died (out of 185,000 spectators) in L.A. from an ecstacy overdose, but the show must go on after redneck racing results in 8 dead and 12 injured. Go figure.

Sounds like the spectators put themselves in an obviously dangerous place near a dirt race track. Did they pay someone to access the area or were they just wandering around on public lands. Next time they should consider safety first before drinking beer and ripping up public lands with machines.

Dumb sport.

Saw some of the video of the racing vehicles and the spectators were so close to the raceway, it seemed almost inevitable that something like this could happen. A tragedy for those involved.

What about the driver?

No EMS was onsite? That seems to be agaiast the standard practice of these events. I hope the times just jumbled the facts a bit.

Let's just stop these races. They burn up a fossil fuel, pollute the air, create greenhouse gases, contribute to global warming, and are extremely dangerous for participants and spectators alike. Preposterous.

Was this a "legal" meet? Why the Alcohol, was it only the spectators drinking or were people driving also drinking?

Don't stand so close to the course. Duh.

Stand back, dah.

I feel so sad abouth this accident , for all off road fanz ....god bless all ....from baja california and ......rest in peace.............

You hear of illegal car sideshows killing people, but those are not sanction events.

I can't believe that a so-called sanction and sponsored event would put people in harms way by having NO guard rails, or if that is to0 expensive, then by not having a margin of distance away from the speeding track. RIDICULOUS!!

At the same time, my thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased, injured, and their families.

My deepest condolences, and prayers, for the families, loved-ones, friends, and all those affected by this
latest terrible tragedy.

Vaughn Walker, from the seeds of Godlessness,
which you so zealously nuture, comes a dark harvest.

the spectators did put themselves in a very dangerous spot, I was about 5 minutes from starting the race when they told the racers that it was going to be cancelled. EVERYONE there knows how the cars come through that section of the race course and it is a very difficult part of that race, it is a sanctioned event with insurance and drivers safety meetings. None of the spectators have to pay, so it is free to all who wish to see it. It is a terrible tradgety but please just pray for all involved, this was an ACCIDENT and could have happened with anyone.

And Joe, if you werent there and didnt see the crash in person, then please withhold from posting links to someones profile without knowing directly. Lots of these trucks look very similar.

The same people who stood close to the race course, only to get rowdy and throw rocks at the driver will later decry protective measures such as safety barriers or a ban on these off-road races altogether. Is this that "Idiot America" I keep hearing about over the past years?

This was on federal land. The greenies will push the Bureau of Land Management for an end to all desert racing in order to save the spotted sand turtle, and protect the environment from exhaust fumes, and beer farts. Of course our Supreme Leader will agree, since it was obviously Bush's fault.

Lemmings, wildebeests, and other follow-the-grim-reaper spectators standing 10 feet from three thousand pounds of steel moving at 60 mph on loose gravel and sand around tight turns? Gee wonder why they all got killed. Don't worry they are not offended - they're dead. Mass Stupidity at the red line.

let me get this right

rather than, say, stand on the guardrail of the 101 freeway and say "i dare you" , i'm gonna' go out to the middle of nowhere, drink and park my tattooed carcass RIGHT NEXT to an ATV going by at what, 60, 80, 100 miles an hour in the middle of the night ?

when did america, and more specifically the inland empire / mojave desert clan lose it's collective mind anyway

and why the f is that happening on MY public lands?

Fred, the "redneck racing" comment in uncalled for and of the lowest class. At least 8 people are dead, you could save your hateful comments until at least they are buried, jerk.

So are we now going to call for the suspension and banning of off-road racing? When one 15 year old girl died at the downtown rave festival, and 150,000 0ther event goers did just fine, it resulted in other music events being canceled. Here, 8 people were needlessly killed and a handful of others seriously injured because of the inherent danger of the race. It's a tragedy that these spectators died, but can anyone really call it unexpected?

Tragedy. But looking at the video, where spectators are RIDICULOUSLY close to the racing vehicles, and apparently consuming a lot of alcohol while they watched, is it any wonder that a tragedy was bound to occur?

I'll bet the spectators to these sports are the same ones who rails against government interference and regulations. Sadly, here is the ultimate example of why that is often needed.

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