An off-road truck sailed off a jump and hurtled into a crowd at a race in the California desert, pinning bodies beneath it and sending others flying into a chaotic cloud of dust in a crash that killed eight people, authorities told News Channel 3 on Sunday.
Twelve people were injured in the crash that came shortly after the twilight start of the California 200 Saturday night in the Mojave Desert, said San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.
Witnesses said the driver took a jump in an area known as “the rockpile” at high speed, hit his brakes on landing and rolled sideways into a crowd of hundreds of people standing with no barriers next to the course.
“He hit the rock and just lost control and tumbled,” said Matt March, 24, of Wildomar, who was standing next to the jump. “Bodies went everywhere.”
Officials said the driver of the race truck wasn’t hurt but had to flee the scene to escape angry spectators.
March said he and several other fans lifted the truck, which came to rest with its oversized wheels pointing toward the sky, and found four people lying unconscious underneath.
At least seven of those killed were in their 20s, including 24-year-old Zachary Freeman of Fillmore, according to the San Bernardino County coroner.
Freeman’s girlfriend Niky Carmikle, 19, said she had left Freeman and his best friend – 24-year-old Dustin Malson of Ventura, who also was killed – to go to the bathroom when the crash happened. When she returned she found the wild aftermath.
“Bodies all over the ground, people screaming, and all I wanted to do was find my boyfriend and my friends,” Carmikle told The Associated Press. She stood and sobbed Sunday over a makeshift memorial on the spot of the crash: a small cross and a circle of rocks near the ruts in the ground left by the truck. Bags of victims’ clothing, some of it bloody sat nearby.
Brian Wolfin, 27, and Anthony Sanchez, 23, both of Escondido died at the scene, and Aaron Farkas, 25, of Escondido died at a hospital. Also killed were Danica Frantzich, 20, of Las Vegas and Andrew Therrin, 22, of Riverside.
The eighth victim died in Riverside County, and no name has been released.
The race was an annual California 200 event in the Lucerne Valley drawing pickup truck racers from all over California.
Followers of News Channel 3 on Twitter expressed their thoughts and prayers of the victims of those people who were in the crowd watching the annual event who may have been in the path of the truck which reportedly went out of control.
One follower posted, “RIP to the people who lost their life JUST 40 minutes ago at the MDR Night Offroad Race in Lucerne…”
Another alerted friends and said, “major accident at MDR Lucerne offroad truck race.”
One person who watched as the accident happened e-mailed KESQ and said, “We were sitting there watching the cars approach when all of a sudden, this one car comes straight at us, like he wanted to hit us. His car was going around 70 MPH and it was over in seconds. People were crying and screaming; there was nothing we could do.
“Bodies were all over with people trying to help, but it was too late. It was obvious that some had terrible injuries and wouldn’t survive. I tried to help where I could but it was no help, the damage was done. We picked people out of the pile and carried them to the area where all the injured where in rows. People were dying and we couldn’t do anything, anything at all! It took the emergency services forever to arrive. We did what we could but it was only futile. Some died as we sat there and talked to them and others just cried in pain. It was terrible just terrible!