Tragically reminiscent of a race accident in February 2008 that killed eight people and injured five others in Accokeek, Maryland, a government-sanctioned off-road race for truckers in the Mojave Desert resulted in the truck accident deaths and injuries of even more people on August 14.
Despite the sadly similar outcomes between the desert and Maryland incidents, the differences were equally stark. The deaths at Accokeek occurred during an illegal drag race on a suburban road; the Mojave race was a sanctioned event that had the blessing of the federal Bureau of Land Management ("BLM"), which owns the public land and is tasked by Congress to make it accessible to reasonable requests. Off-road racing in the desert is deemed reasonable use.
Last Saturday's accident occurred in the "rockpile" stretch of the 50-mile race track, where trucks flying over jumps get within four feet of racing fans. One of those trucks, driven by Brett M. Sloppy, lost control after a landing and careened sideways into the crowd, with devastating consequences. Eight people were killed and 12 others injured. Sloppy was not hurt.
Sloppy "hit the rock and just lost control and tumbled," said witness Matt March. "Bodies went everywhere."
The California Highway Patrol ("CHP") says that it has no plan to arrest Sloppy. In fact, the CHP has no jurisdiction over the matter, owing to the BLM's stewardship and oversight of the land.
Said John Payne, a close bystander at the rockpile: "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."
Related Resource: www.wbaltv.com "Off-Road Racer Rolls Truck Into Crowd, Killing 8" August 16, 2010