LOS ANGELES, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Off-road derby supporters and opponents criticized a lack of safety precautions after a crash in California's Mojave Desert killed eight spectators.
Some critics blamed the promoter of the 200-mile nighttime race for allowing spectators to get close to the track. Others blamed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for sanctioning the events and fostering an environment that would eventually lead to tragedy, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
A racer at the California 200 lost control of his vehicle at a jump, plowing into spectators hugging the raceway. Eight people died when the vehicle rolled on top of them, and five others were injured.
"Tons of people were there, and you always want to get close," 19-year-old Niky Carmikle, whose boyfriend died, told the Times. "That's part of the rush, part of the excitement. They should have had fences up, though."
The race on federal land near the San Bernardino Mountains was organized by Mojave Desert Racing of South El Monte and was part of a seven-race circuit.
Environmental groups said they have complained that the BLM, which issued permits for Saturday's race, doesn't have the resources to regulate off-road events that attract large crowds.
"The feds have allowed a 'Mad Max' (a futuristic, nihilistic movie series) to develop with too many people and too many machines crammed into too little space," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit environmental protection group that has clashed with off-road enthusiasts.
The bureau said in a statement the permit issued for the race listed Mojave Desert Racing as responsible for the safety of up to 300 spectators and up to 80 drivers in the race. Several spectators told the Times that more than 1,000 people were at the race.