Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tragedy at Tennessee Auto Show

Via MSNBC - Witnesses question drag racer's stunt
One day after a drag-racing car careened into a crowd and killed six people, witnesses questioned why the driver was allowed to speed down a multilane highway with no guard rails, lined on both sides by hundreds of spectators.

[. . .]

The crash happened Saturday during an “exhibition burnout” — when a drag racer 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.

[. . .]

Authorities identified the driver as pro drag racer Troy Warren Critchley, an Australian who is now based in Wylie, Texas. He suffered minor injuries and was taken by car to a nearby hospital for treatment, authorities said.

There were no criminal charges against Critchley, Browning said.
It was certainly a tragic accident, but it is important to realize that it was an accident. It is easy to look back and cast blame. It probably was not wise to have spectators so close to the show and unprotected, but there is little doubt that Critchley would have avoided the accident if at all possible. The article notes these technical details:
The AMS Pro Modified Series, which sponsors professional drag races, issued a news release saying the driver, a veteran of more than 20 years in drag racing, was performing a burnout when road conditions caused the car to go out of control.

[. . .]

“There’s a button inside the car that you hold down, and it holds the front tires down during a burnout,” said Griffin, 19. “If the throttle gets hung, or if your foot gets caught, then you’ll take off and you wouldn’t be able to stop."
We may never know for sure what caused the accident, but it is best to withhold final judgment until all the facts are in.


Brian L. said...

I'm convinced that no good news comes out of Selmer.

Anonymous said...

This has to be one of the most BONEHEADED things I have seen when it comes to spectator racing events.
In Europe, spectators will line the sides of the road in rally races, cars flying by on dir/gravel/ice and paved roads. What’s incredible is that they will stand there, knowing that these cars leave the track routinely and yet act SHOCKED when a group is plowed under by a car when the inevitable happens.

Here in Selmer, the organizers are doing a great thing for the community with their fundraising, and yet somehow allow the (very well established) rules of drag car racing.

Normally, spectators are made to remain BEHIND the starting line in stands.
This is because, it’s known by ALL that these cars can leave the tracks and crash with regularity.
Walls and barriers are set up and people are held safely behind the cars.

How did this policy escape the Selmer organizers?!

I know that the car was “doing a burnout”, but it also appears that the driver intended to go down the street for all the people to see.

The organizers should be charged with violations appropriate to the negligence that they are guilty of.
The driver should have taken one look at the layout of the event he was asked to participate in, and IMMIDIATELY declined to be a part of it!

If a burnout was all that he was to do, then short of CHAINING this car to the ground, as a builder and driver of powerful cars, and a hobbyist pilot (something that has ingrained safety into my very being), I would NEVER have allowed myself to be a part of this event in the configuration that the Selmer authorities allowed.

In the final analysis, I believe that the following people should answer for their actions…
• The event organizers
• Selmer Police/Sherriff/fire marshal – (and/or whoever approved this setup)
• The driver himself for willingly operating this inherently dangerous vehicle in the proximity to the crowds.
• And ANYONE ELSE who had the power to stop or prevent this event from happening and didn’t.

-L. Burns
(Atlanta, Ga)

jtango said...

I agree with L. Burns. "Boneheaded" is right. Wasn't there anyone in town smart enough to see the inherent risk in standing next to the track? Really, it doesn't take a rocket scientist.

Jan said...

To a certain extent, I would have to agree with you. All of the people you list do retain a large amount of responsibility for what happened. However, I would have to add the spectators themselves to that list. To some degree, if they were at all familiar with the sport, they would have to have been aware of the dangers as well. To willingly stand that close to the track was certainly unwise.

I'm really not that familiar with the event. The article says that the event has been taking place in the town for 18 years. Has this sort of thing ever happened there before? Was there really anything radically different about the drivers or the conditions this year as opposed to other years? This is why I suggest that judgment should be withheld until all the fact are on the table.

.:Erica:. said...

As a pro mod racer, I can tell you that the last thing that the AMS wanted was to see anyone hurt. It is such a tragedy to have happen, particularly at a charity event benefiting children.

No amount of speculation or blame will bring those people back or ease the pain that this has caused. I am sure that 10 million times they will all wish they could take that moment back.

This will be a learning experience for many, that despite how many times its been done before without incident, how experienced the driver is, or how good the intentions are, with these and any other machines... things can go amiss quickly and result in devastating consequences.

My deepest prayers and sympathy to the victims, their families, and the others involved in this tragedy.

PS- Most drag racing facilities are not dangerous to spectators. There are concrete retaining walls, fences, and more safety precautions to separate them. I do hope that in the wake of this, the correlation does not carry over to drag racing as a whole... the quote by the 19 year old self proclaimed drag racing "expert" are not accurate of the car that was involved.

Jan said...

As to the accuracy of the 19 year old "expert", that's good to know and honestly, not surprising.