Four Dead After Drag Racing Car Hits Crowd of Bystanders in Tennessee

Sunday, June 17, 2007

SELMER, Tenn. —  A drag-racing vehicle lost control during a parade and spun into a crowd of bystanders, killing four adults and injuring up to 15 people, authorities said.

Investigators were trying to determine what caused the vehicle to careen into the crowd at the Cars for Kids charity event Saturday night in Selmer, located about 80 miles east of Memphis.

Witness Scott Henley said the vehicle started burning off its tires, then began to fishtail and slammed into a light pole before spinning around into the audience.

Selmer Police Chief Neal Burks said, “bodies were flying into the air when it happened.”

Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Browning said at least eight people were taken to three hospitals.

The identities of the victims and the driver, or the driver’s condition, were not immediately known.

Browning said the vehicle has been described as a drag-racing car, but he did not have more details yet about the vehicle.

Matthew Brammer, administrator of AMS Pro Modified Series, which sanctions drag races, said late Saturday that the car involved has been driven by drag racer Troy Critchley, of Wylie, Texas, but he did not know if Critchley was driving when the car struck the crowd.

The AMS Pro Modified Series later issued a news release that did not identify the driver, but said he was a veteran of more than 20 years in drag racing and had to be taken to the emergency room.

The release said the driver was performing an “exhibition burnout” — spinning the tires to make them heat up and smoke — when road conditions caused the car to lose control, striking a utility pole and then veering into the crowd.

“The race team is in shock and deeply saddened by this unexpected event. Their hearts and prayers are with the injured people and their families,” the release said.

Sheriff’s officials and police began to close the festival shortly after the accident. About 40,000 to 60,000 people were expected to attend the weekend event.

Cars for Kids holds several events throughout the nation and raises close to $200,000 annually for charities that help children in need, according to its Web site.

The charity was formed in 1990, two years after founder Larry Price’s son, Chad, suffered a severe head injury in a bicycle accident.

Price promised that if his son was saved from lifelong injuries, he would spend the rest of his life raising funds for disabled children, according to the Web site.

Price could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

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