LUCERNE VALLEY, Calif. — An off-road truck plowed into a crowd and scattered “bodies everywhere” moments after sailing off a jump at a California race, killing eight people and injuring 12 others, authorities and witnesses said.
The crash came shortly after the start of the California 200, a Saturday evening race in the Mojave Desert, said San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. 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.
Six people died at the scene and two others died after being taken to a hospital, authorities said. Seven ambulances and 10 emergency aircraft responded, airlifting most of the 12 injured people from the area to Loma Linda University Medical Center or St. Mary’s Medical Center.
“There was dust everywhere, people screaming, people running,” David Conklin, a photographer covering the event for off-road magazines, told The Associated Press.
Paramedics brought six people — five adults and a child — to Loma Linda University Medical Center, spokesman Herbert Atienza said Sunday. He had no information on their condition.
Conklin said the Prerunner truck was among the first 20 off the line in the race, which began at about 8 p.m. It had just gone over a jump known as “the rockpile” about two miles into the race, and he said he watched the truck sail through the air. Then he turned to watch for other vehicles when he heard the commotion caused by the crash.
“When I got up to the vehicle I could tell that several people were trapped. There were just bodies everywhere,” he said. “Someone else was crushed beneath the car.”
The truck came to a rest upside down with its oversized wheels pointing toward the sky, dust swirling in the meek light of the setting sun. Spectators rushed to the truck and about half a dozen people flipped it upright to try to help at least one person pinned underneath.
Officials said the driver wasn’t hurt but had to flee the scene to escape angry spectators. The driver was not immediately identified.
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.
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 up to 100 mph on the 50-mile off-road course. The race had been scheduled to last through the night.
The crowd was standing within 10 feet of the track with no guard rails separating them from the speeding vehicles.
He said that the driver, who wasn’t named, was forced to run from the scene when the crowd grew unruly and some began throwing rocks at him. It was not clear why he lost control of the truck.