Family Files Suit Over Off-Road Crash - NBC 7 San Diego

Family Files Suit Over Off-Road Crash



    Family Files Suit Over Off-Road Crash
    Workers push an overturned off-road race truck upright after it went out of control and ran into a crowd of spectators during a race in Lucerne Valley. At least eight people were killed during the incident about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

    The mother of one of eight spectators killed in an off-road crash in the Mojave Desert is suing the race promoter and the driver of the truck.

    Doris Levinson filed the wrongful death lawsuit last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court against driver Brett M. Sloppy and South El Monte-based MDR Productions, which operates as Mojave Desert Racing.

    Brett Sloppy, 28, from San Marcos was driving the modified Ford Ranger during the California 200 race on Aug. 14,that slammed into an area where hundreds of spectators were standing, including Levinson's son Andrew Therrien, 22, according to the California Highway Patrol.

    Therrien and seven others, including San Diegans Michael Dickinson, 34, Brian Wolfin, 27, Anthony Sanchez, 23 and Aaron Farkas, 25, were killed during the crash.

    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)

    Numerous others, including Therrien's daughter, were injured.

    A woman answering the phone at MDR Productions said Monday night that the company had no comment on the lawsuit.

    The suit accuses Sloppy of driving recklessly at the Johnson Valley off-highway vehicle area and alleges that MDR failed to take adequate safety precautions for spectators.

    A permit issued for the race by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management showed spectator safety was the responsibility of MDR, whose own rules require fans to stay 100 feet away from the course.

    The suit said MDR did not adequately staff the event, and did not monitor the crowd to ensure compliance with its 100-feet rule. It also did not take steps, such as erecting a temporary fence, to ensure spectator safety or post signs about the risks, the suit said.

    "There were no barriers at all," Jeff Talbott, inland division chief for the California Highway Patrol, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
    Fans said there are rarely rails or any other safety guards at the races.

    In an internal review released in November, the BLM said its staff failed to properly monitor and prepare for the 200-mile race.

    Only one ranger was working in the 500,000-acre area on the day of the crash, and it was for routine patrol, not race monitoring, the review said. The ranger had visited only a portion of the course before the event. The suit said the BLM will also be sued.

    It took rescue vehicles and helicopters more than half an hour to reach the remote location, and spectators including off-duty police and firefighters helped the injured and placed blankets over the dead.

    Tens of thousands of people attend the California 200, in which a variety of off-road vehicles take jumps and other obstacles and reach speeds of over 60 mph on the 50-mile off-road course.

    The 200-mile race is part of a series held in the Mojave Desert's Soggy Dry Lake Bed near the city of Lucerne Valley, 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.