A crash and a mob

Come to think of it, this is The Most Fabulous Object in the World.

I turned on my computer this morning and the top news item on my home page was about a horrible crash that killed 8 people and hurt 12 more.

A witness said the crash scattered “bodies everywhere.” After the vehicle went airborne it landed on spectators. Bystanders rushed in to help those pinned by the vehicle.

The race is called the California 200 and takes place near Bessemer Mine Road at Soggy Dry Lake in Lucerne Valley, CA. The course length is 50 miles.

The driver, who as far as I can tell hasn’t been identified yet, lost control of his vehicle and reportedly went airborne before going off the course and rolling over spectators who were located approx. 10 feet from the course. There was reportedly no safety barrier.

According to the Associated Press, “[a witness] 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.”

I haven’t been able to find the name of the driver in news reports. However, a photograph in the LA Times clearly shows the wording “Misery Motorsports” on the upside-down vehicle. I did some checking and found a MySpace page for Misery Motorsports that contains the name “Brett Sloppy,” who is listed as a 28-year-old male. A Bretty Sloppy was a registered race participant in the “1500 Class” per the MDR Racing web site.

Note: I’m not claiming to know the name of the driver. This is just some information that I found.

The main reason I take an interest in this horrible story is the human behavior that took place after the crash. As far as I can tell there is no indication this was anything other than a very unfortunate accident. Yet some in the crowd apparently were angry and something like a mob mentality set in. I wasn’t there, but it seems as if while some persons were in need of urgent medical attention, others were directing their energies against the driver by throwing rocks.

I also don’t understand our obsessive adoration for vehicle races powered by the internal combustion engine. In our society there is little worshiped more than the all-powerful internal combustion engine. Perhaps it even outranks television and cell phones. As far as “sports” go I’ve never understood the attraction of watching internal combustion engines go round and round in circles, but hey, that’s just me.

Since I’ve never attended an internal combustion engine “sporting” festival, I don’t understand things like: Why do spectators have to be so close to observe the event? It seems to me that it would be wise to calculate the “danger area” where accidents could conceivably happen and keep observers out of that area. I can’t see a valid reason to have spectators in that danger area. Perhaps it is the thrill of danger? If so, the seeking of danger does not magically eliminate the actual risk.

Thinking about it, I can recall incidents where vehicles (like cars and boats) have flown off race courses and injured people before.

It all seems pretty crazy to me.

UPDATE: This text was recently posted on Brett Sloppy’s Facebook page. “Soo incredibly lost and devistated my thoughts and prayers go out to all the familys and friends involved.. Thank you too all my friends for sticking with me even thru these tragic times I love you all.”

22 responses

  1. It was an accident!!!!!!!

    He is devastated, Don’t Dog him for the fact that people were in the race areas.
    Can you grasp the intensity? He was not at fault! Don’t criticize him.

    And DO NOT BLAME HIM. He is not God, and it was not his intention for anyone to be hurt or killed.

    Why don’t you stop and put yourself in his place.

    Are you able to stop a racing vehicle at your whim?

    I didn’t think so.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I apologize that I made a small inappropriate joke about the unfortunate coincidence in names here. I have removed that part of my post.

      I agree with you 100 percent. It was totally an accident and I feel for the driver. I was trying to make clear in my post that what I was critical of was the “mob” mentality where people reportedly threw rocks at the driver. If true, that was a completely asinine response.

      My main points of interest here are:

      1. The mob response
      2. The risk of watching dangerous activities from too close a distance

      The thrust of my post is not meant to criticize the driver.

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  2. I never really got why vehicle racing is so interesting either. “Oh look, they went around a circle again” and about the most strategic piece is when they “sneak past on the outside” of another driver in the turn or something. Same thing with horse racing really. /shrug

    The funny thing is I recall other racing events where flying debris from a crash have killed and wounded at least twice as many people and nobody bothered the driver.
    Ironically Ive never heard of that many people getting hurt at a demolition derby. Just maybe a driver or two at most.

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    1. Good comment and I agree with you about horse racing, too.

      I can’t imagine what the top speed at a demolition derby might be. Probably 10 to 20 miles an hour. It’s hard to imagine spectators getting hurt at an event like that.

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      1. True, but there is still a slight irony in that either way. That and at least the idea is to smash stuff, your not just hoping something might happen so its actually exciting.

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  3. I don’t get why people want to sit in a hot stadium and watch noisy traffic, either, but I was told that the element of danger is what attracts a lot of the spectators. They want to see close calls or even a crash. We have a NASCAR stadium in Kansas City, but I’ve never been tempted to go. You can hardly get me to go to any stadium, though, ;). (I do love basketball!)

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    1. I like the way you describe it. I’m not putting down those who do, though. It’s just not for me.

      I do believe that the thrill of seeing something dangerous is a big part of motor sports. I’ve heard something along those lines many, many times.

      I may have more to say on this topic after I’ve pondered it further. It occurs to me, however, that the vast majority of spectator deaths in motor sports could probably be deemed as “preventable” if no one ever sat closer than minimum safe distance. 😦

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  4. There was no mob. Several of the people in attendance were off duty EMT, firefighters and law enforcement so response was quick in helping the injured (considering the limited resources). The crowed also tried to flip the truck over and remove people trapped under.

    There was a danger and people did not fully respect the potential for disaster as the crowed had moved in far too close to spectate. Im not sure who is to blame for this. The crowed or the racing sanction body.

    If anything the mob was clumsy…not violently “throwing rocks”

    Get your story right, you look ridiculous otherwise. Next time try to use legit info for your misanthropic rants.

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    1. —-edit:

      I was there. I have also attended previous MDR, MORE and SCORE racing events.

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    2. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate hearing from someone who was there.

      What “rant” are you referring to?

      By the way, I was talking about a mob “mentality.” I never said there was a mob. This is based on the news report from the Associated Press that said, and I quote: “… 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.”

      Can you confirm if that story is correct or not?

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  5. while it may be difficult to explain the attraction of “getting close” to the danger of motorsports racing, its not unlike you need to comment on a sensational story in the first place.

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    1. I apologize if my commenting on the story has offended you. I consider the accident a fantastic tragedy and my heart goes out to everyone who was involved.

      That said, I feel what happened is even more painful in light of the fact that it was, in my opinion, preventable.

      I feel a bit like Mr. Spock saying this, but it seems logical to assume that spectators who are within crash distance may be hurt when crashes occur.

      This is nothing new. A few seconds of research on the Internet turned up this bit of information from Wikipedia (my emphasis added):

      “The 1955 Le Mans disaster occurred during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans when a racing car involved in an accident flew into the crowd, killing the driver (Pierre Levegh) and 83 spectators. A further 120 people were injured in the accident. In terms of human toll, it is the most catastrophic accident in motorsports history.”

      Like

  6. Here’s a follow-up item from the Associated Press that includes more specific information regarding the report that rock throwing allegedly occurred:

    “Jeff Talbott, inland division chief for the California Highway Patrol, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that the driver was forced to run from the scene when the crowd grew unruly and some began throwing rocks at him. Several witnesses, however, said they didn’t see anyone throwing rocks at the driver.”

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  7. While you were wrong about the mob, you opinion about the dangers of spectating are without a doubt correct. Im sorry I was harsh.

    People in attendance must assume a big risk. If they realize it or not is the question. If they do, then they are accountable for what ever harm may come to them. If they don’t realize the danger then who is to blame? The authorities? The people who posses knowledge of the hazards and choose (consciously or not) to remain silent? Or their own ignorance? We can only speculate with out full knowledge of the events. However, one thing is clear: exercising critical thinking and foresight = better quality of life for all.

    The events of yesterday are forever etched in my memory. Never have I seen so much carnage and loss. I only hope some one learned something from all this.

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    1. Hey x, I just wanted to say thanks again. I appreciate what you have to say and your point of view. And I don’t envy your memories.

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  8. What I find interesting is your criticism of those that like automobile motors (and you put worshiped somewhere in there) who are you to tell others they shouldn’t be interested in some mechanical machine simply because you don’t understand it?
    I have been a drag racer since the 1970’s and build race motors for that, I guess you just don’t get it, when I build a motor that is better than a competitor there is a lot of pride in that!
    You should attend a motorsport before condemning it. I don’t like tennis but don’t make remarks about why would anyone want to knock a ball back and forth, it’s what they like (my wife included) so I respect their desire to watch.
    Maybe you should do more ‘on site’ investigating before making remarks about those of us that helped shape your mode of transportation (yes, racers has more than you will ever mnow in the development of the cars on the roads).
    -Phil

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    1. Hi Phil and welcome! I really appreciate your comment.

      When I said I had no interest in motor sports I said, “But hey, that’s just me.” That simply says it is not something I find interesting. It’s not meant to put down those who do. I personally don’t understand it but who says I know what the hell I’m talking about?

      And I certainly never said anything about racing not bringing advances in automotive technology. I just think we went a little overboard in our love affair with the internal combustion engine, that’s all.

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  9. Okay, I understand, by the way I know it was an accident but I still have to place some blame on the driver.
    In drag racing there were times my car gets ‘squirrely’ and instead of trying to stay on itI will back off if near the spectators rather than live the rest of my life thinking I could maybe avoided.
    Sometimes there are injuries and deaths that are just seemingly unavoidable (like a nitro-fueled motor blew up and a piece of the blower in a freak accident hit a woman in the stands and killed her.
    Usually in my kind of racing the driver is the only one injured or killed and I watch those European races where they race on regular roads and people are so stupid they stand right on the curves!! I feel sorry for the families of those people!
    Best regards,
    Phil

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  10. yes it was an accident and it could have been avoided if spectators would obey the signs that are posted all around the course saying to stay 125 feet from the track…my condolinces go out to all who lost loved ones it is tragic. but please dont bad mouth our sport this poor guy prob feels terrible about what happened..

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  11. […] A crash and a mob August 2010 20 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com, 4 […]

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  12. […] case you missed it, the theme of the parade was “Undying Love For The Internal Combustion Engine.” Okay. Blah blah blah. What else you got? Here are some other miscellaneous observations […]

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