8 Dead in Mojave Off-Road Carnage

Eight dead, 12 injured after truck catapulted into the crowd at high speed.

ByABC News
August 15, 2010, 7:33 PM

Aug. 15, 2010 -- An off-road racing accident in California's Mojave Desert that left eight people dead and 12 injured, may have occurred because fans wanted to get too close to the speeding trucks.

Hundreds of stunned off-road racing fans looked on horrified Saturday night at the carnage at the California 200 in the Mojave Desert, 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, after driver Brett M. Sloppy, 28, lost control of his truck that then catapulted into the crowd at high speed.

Sloppy, of San Marcos, Calif., was operating the modified Ford Ranger along the 50-mile track at the desert event, where tens of thousands of revelers stood just feet away from trucks reaching speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour.

Race fans are supposed to keep themselves 100 feet away from the charging off-road vehicles, but the organizers of these races generally don't have the money to police the crowds -- so they depend on federal and local officials to patrol.

Fans say these types of races rarely have any sort of safety guards.

"That's desert racing for you," said John Payne, 20, one of the first people to reach the truck. "You're at your own risk out here. You are in the middle of the desert. People were way too close and they should have known. You can't really hold anyone at fault. It's just a horrible, horrible accident."

"You could touch it if you wanted to. It's part of the excitement," 19-year-old Niky Carmikle told The Associated Press as she sobbed at the scene. Her boyfriend, 24-year-old Zachary Freeman, was killed in the crash.

"There's always that risk factor, but you just don't expect that it will happen to you," she said.

Just after 8 p.m. PT, Sloppy took a daredevil jump called the "rock pile" at high speed, hit the brakes on landing and caused the truck to tumble, landing upside-down in the crowd, which gets as close as four feet from the unmarked track.

Seven ambulances and 10 emergency aircraft were deployed to the scene, which reportedly took more than half an hour to reach the remote location. Six people died at the scene while two died after being taken to a hospital.