Promoter's Permit Suspended After Deadly Race

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Catherine Garcia reports

    A federal agency suspended future event permits Thursday for the promoter of last weekend's off-road race in the California desert where eight spectators, including four San Diegans, were killed by a racing truck.

    Spring Valley resident Michael Dickinson, 34, and Escondido residents Brian Wolfin, 27, Anthony Sanchez, 23 and Aaron Farkas, 25 died in the crash that came shortly after the twilight start of the California 200.

    Local Men Among 8 Dead in Tragic Off-Road Crash

    [DGO] Local Men Among 8 Dead in Tragic Off-Road Crash
    Three men from Escondido are among the dead in a devastating crash that killed eight and injured 12 others when an out-of-control pickup truck plowed into a crowd in the Mojave Desert. (Published Sunday, Aug 15, 2010)

    The Bureau of Land Management, which manages the territory where the crash occurred, said the suspension of permits for Mojave Desert Racing will remain in effect while an investigation of the accident is under way.

    A call and e-mail message to Susan and James Williams, the couple who operate MDR Productions from their South El Monte home, were not immediately returned.

    8 Dead in Tragic Off-Road Crash

    [DGO] 8 Dead in Tragic Off-Road Crash
    The off-road truck sailed off a jump and hurtled into the crowd, pinning bodies beneath it and sending others flying into a chaotic cloud of dust in a crash. (Published Sunday, Aug 15, 2010)

    The spectators were killed Saturday during a 200-mile race on a 50-mile circuit in the Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles. Ten other spectators were injured.

    Video of the accident showed spectators crowding the edge of the narrow dirt course as trucks sped by. One truck went out of control and slammed into the crowd and overturned.

    Documents provided by the BLM, which issued permits for the California 200 race, show that spectator safety was the responsibility of MDR. However, the spectators were within feet of the speeding vehicles, not 100 feet away as MDR's own rules require.

    The BLM also said it was reviewing future racing events in the California desert on a case by case basis to ensure all safety requirements can be met before authorizing them to go forward.

    Off-road recreation "is a popular activity in the California desert enjoyed by families and responsible organized groups," the agency said in a statement. "BLM's ongoing review will be aimed at ensuring the public safety remains our first priority."

    Under review is a motorcycling and all-terrain vehicle race scheduled for this weekend in the Mojave, sponsored by the American Motorcyclist Association.

    "In light of the tragedy it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for BLM to check and make sure all safety precautions are met for events coming up," said Jerry Grabow, president of the AMA's 37th district.

    He said his group works closely with the BLM to ensure that its events come off safely.