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Mother of spectator killed in California 200 race files lawsuit

January 4, 2011 | 11:25 am

The mother of a spectator killed in the California 200 desert race has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the promoter and off-roader whose truck careened into a crowd in Lucerne Valley, killing eight.

Doris S. Levinson’s son, Andrew W. Therrien, of Riverside, died in the deadly crash after pushing his 3 1/2-year-old daughter to safety and out of the path of the modified Ford Ranger.

The legal action accuses race promoter Mojave Desert Racing of South El Monte of negligence for allowing spectator viewing areas along the racecourse that were "unreasonably dangerous."

The off-road racer who crashed, Brett M. Sloppy, of San Marcos, also was named in the suit filed last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

In the lawsuit, Levinson’s attorneys said they also expect to sue the Bureau of Land Management, which granted a permit for the California 200 night race on federal desert land. Levinson already has filed an administrative claim against the federal agency.

In November, an internal BLM inquiry found the agency failed to follow its own safety and regulatory procedures during the off-road desert race in San Bernardino County.

Eight spectators were killed and 10 seriously injured when Sloppy lost control of his Ford Ranger pickup in August after going airborne on a hill known as the "rock pile," where hundreds of fans had gathered to watch the race.

The truck rolled into the crowd, which had crept to within a few feet of the track, just minutes after the race began. Witnesses and video of the race, one of more than 130 such events held annually on BLM-controlled land in the California desert, showed that Mojave Desert Racing failed to adhere to a requirement in its BLM permit to keep spectators 50 feet away from vehicles.

California Highway Patrol investigators said the truck came to rest less than 10 feet from the racecourse. The driver will not face charges related to the crash because it occurred during a "sanctioned" sporting event permitted by the BLM and did not involve public roadways, CHP officials have said.

However, the CHP is continuing its investigation and could ultimately hand over the agency's findings to local prosecutors, the state attorney general's office or the U.S. attorney's office.


Photos: Eight die when California 200 racer loses control

U.S. agency suspends off-road events organized by promoter of deadly race

Federal agency failed to properly monitor off-road race that killed 8, report says

-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: An overturned off-road race truck is uprighted after it went out of control in August, striking a crowd of spectators. Credit: Francis Specker / Associated Press