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Steering wheel probed in racetrack crash that killed 2

March 18, 2013 |  5:31 pm

Marcus Johnson and Dale Wondergem Jr.Authorities said a steering problem might have caused a crash at Marysville Raceway Park in Northern California on Saturday night that killed a boy and a man.

Marcus Johnson, 14, and Dale Wondergem Jr., 68, were walking in the pits as part of a driver’s pit crew when a winged sprint car crashed into them. Johnson was a cousin of the driver, Chase Johnson, who was not hurt.

The Yuba County Sheriff's Department  told the Associated Press that it was looking into whether the detachable steering wheel on the car may have been faulty. That could have caused the driver to lose control, officials speculated.

The Johnson family issued a statement Sunday. “Our family has suffered an unspeakable tragedy with the passing of our precious Marcus Johnson and Dale Wondergem. There are no words to express our sorrow," Don Johnson, Marcus' uncle, said in the statement. "Our family has been racing for four generations and loves the sport that has now brought us so much pain."

At the time of the crash, the cars were doing their warm-up laps, according to Fox 40.

Wondergem was the owner of a few cars in the race.

The crowd went quiet after the accident. “Silent. Eerily silent. There was a focused effort to try and resuscitate those two individuals,” said Steven Blakesley, a race announcer.

Wondergem died at the scene. Marcus was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

It was not immediately clear why the car lost control. Investigators are looking into whether mechanical problems, including the detachable steering wheel, were a factor.

“Our thoughts and deepest prayers go out to everyone. Out of respect, we will not elaborate on details. We ask everyone to respect each other and the families,” raceway officials said in a news release.


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-- Fox 40 and a Times Staff Writer

Photo: Marcus Johnson and Dale Wondergem Jr. Credit: Fox 40