Eight spectators killed in US desert race crash

The horrific accident occurred at about 0240 GMT yesterday during the California 200, an annual event held in Soggy Dry Lake Bed near the city of Lucerne Valley in the Mojave Desert.

"Right now we have 17 injured, six of them in serious condition. Seven of the eight people killed were identified Sunday by officials," California Highway Patrol spokesman officer Joaquin Zubieta told AFP.

At least four of the injured were in serious condition and were taken by air ambulance to nearby trauma centers, fire department supervisor Tim Franke told reporters.

NBC news reported that those killed were all in their 20s or 30s, while an unspecified number of minors were among the injured.

The CHP identified the driver as Brett Sloppy, 28, a welder and owner of a nearby motor sports company.

Sloppy "lost control of his modified 2000 Ford Ranger while he was driving 45 to 50 miles per hour. He was not arrested, and alcohol was not a factor in the crash. At this point Mr. Sloppy has not been charged in the crash," the CHP spokesman added.

On his Facebook page, Sloppy wrote that he was "so incredibly lost and devastated my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and friends involved... Thank you too all my friends for sticking with me even through these tragic times I love you all."

Local reports said he needed to be escorted away from the area when spectators threatened him and began throwing rocks.

"He got airborne and when he landed, rolled over straight into the spectators," Zubieta told The Los Angeles Times. "People didn't have much of a chance... to get out of the way."

The accident occurred near the start of the race, when one of the drivers failed to negotiate a jump and veered off the track into the crowd.

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