Seven people have died so far in a bizarre mishap during a charity drag racing event.
Three more people have died after a drag-racing car went out of control and careened into a crowd of spectators, raising the death toll to seven, state officials said Sunday. The crash occurred Saturday night during an “exhibition burnout” — when a driver spins his tires to make them heat up and smoke — at the Cars for Kids charity event in Selmer, located about 80 miles east of Memphis. Several other people were injured.
Amateur video of the crash, broadcast on WMC-TV in Memphis, showed the car’s engine revving loudly before the vehicle sped down a highway lined with spectators on both sides. After a few hundred feet, the smoking car skidded off the road.
The identities of the victims and the driver were not immediately released.
Witness Scott Henley said the vehicle started burning off its tires, then fishtailed and slammed into a utility 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. Browning said the vehicle was described as a drag-racing car, but he did not have more details about it.
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 saying the driver was a veteran of more than 20 years in drag racing and had to be taken to an emergency room.
The release said the driver was performing a burnout when road conditions caused the car to go out of control. “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 closed the festival shortly after the crash. 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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