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Fed. agency suspends permits of race promoter

August 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Bureau of Land Management has suspended the operating permits for future events by the promoter of last weekend's off-road race in the Mojave Desert where eight spectators were killed by a racing truck.The federal agency, which managers land where the crash happened, said Thursday the suspension of any Mojave Desert Racing Productions permits will remain in effect while an investigation of the accident is under way.

Eight spectators were killed Saturday night during the California 200 off-road race at Soggy Dry Lake Bed near Lucerne Valley. Twelve others were injured. It took rescue crews more than half an hour to reach the remote location.

Just two miles into the start of the race, a truck jumped over an area known as "the rockpile," lost control and barreled into the crowd, pinning several people under the vehicle. There were no guardrails separating the crowd from the track, and many spectators were mere feet away from the trucks racing by at up to 100 mph.

The land the race took place on is owned by the BLM, which gave race organizers with MDR permission to hold the event. According to the BLM, it is the responsibility of the race organizer, MDR, to enforce the safety rules.

The BLM has launched an official review of the deadly crash. BLM spokeswoman Jan Bedrosian said in a statement Monday that the agency is also cooperating with other law enforcement agencies in the investigation and reviewing all off-road vehicle events in the California desert for safety.

The permits obtained by MDR require racers to slow to 15 mph when they're within 50 feet of the fans. Also, the permit states that no more than 300 spectators could attend the event.

According to witness accounts, thousands of people were stretched along the 50-mile race course.

The documents indicate MDR had five other races lined up in the coming months, including a "Return 2 The Desert 200" night race Sept. 4.

Those killed in the crash have been identified as:

  • Andrew Therrien, 22, of Riverside.

  • Brian Wolfin, 27, of Escondido.

  • Dustin Malson, 24, of Ventura.

  • Danica Frantzich, 20, of Las Vegas.

  • Anthony Sanchez, 23, of Escondido.

  • Aaron Farkas, 25, of Escondido.

  • Zachary Freeman, 24, of Fillmore.

  • Michael Dickinson, 34, of Spring Valley.

The driver of the truck, 28-year-old Brett Sloppy of San Marcos, was not injured in the crash. The California Highway Patrol said that alcohol was not a factor and they have no plans to charge him.

Sloppy posted a message on his Facebook page apologizing to those involved in the tragic crash.

"Thank you to all my friends for sticking with me even through these tragic times. I love you all," he posted.

Sloppy went on to post, "So incredibly lost and devastated. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and friends."

Of the 12 injured, paramedics transported six people - five adults and a child - to Loma Linda University Medical Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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