Tue, Jun 19, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Six killed in drag-racing mishap

BURNOUT Australia-born Warren Critchley's Cars for Kids charity turned into a nightmare when his vehicle skidded off the road in front of a drive-in restaurant


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.

"It ain't really safe to do anything with drag cars on a city street," said 19-year-old Garett Moore, who said he was about 4.5m away from the wreck on Saturday night, but was uninjured. "They shouldn't have done it."

Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Browning said on Sunday the six killed were in their teens or early 20s. The accident injured at least 18 others, including a five-year-old boy, who were taken to hospitals in Tennessee and Mississippi.

The crash happened on 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 130km east of Memphis.

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. After approximately 100m, the smoking car skidded off the road in front of a drive-in restaurant.

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.

There was a guard rail along at least part of the highway, but not along the stretch where the crash occurred.

Nick Staples, who was at the car show and charity event with his wife and three children, said he was standing 6m from where the car plowed into the audience.

"There should have been guard rails," Staples said. "But even if there had been, it wouldn't have mattered."

Mourners placed small votive candles, flowers, a teddy bear and a ceramic angel at the crash site on Sunday.

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.

The Highway Patrol said it had no information about road conditions.

Matthew Brammer, the administrator of AMS Pro Modified Series, which sanctions drag races, said Critchley had driven the car involved in the wreck in competition.

Critchley's Web site said he began his career in an engine building shop in Brisbane, Australia, in 1986, and then raced on the Australian circuit in the 1990s.

He moved to the US in 1998.

By late Sunday afternoon, the Web site carried a message saying it was not available.

Authorities closed the festival 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 country and raises close to US$200,000 annually for charities that help children in need, its Web site showed.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top