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Deadly off-road race spurs criticism
Fans of desert racing say nothing beats the danger, dust and noise of watching 3,500-pound trucks roaring past — close enough almost to touch — and then rocketing into the air over treacherous jumps with nicknames such as the “the rock pile.”

The off-road derbies, which occur in remote stretches of the Mojave Desert, draw thousands and exist a world apart from the urban sprawl of Southern California. There are no guardrails, no enforced rules and no police to hold spectators back as they lean over the track with cell phones, snapping photos of oncoming trucks. 

The excitement turned to horror around 8 p.m. Saturday when a racer at the California 200 in the Lucerne Valley lost control of his vehicle at a jump and sailed into a crowd of spectators who had edged steadily closer to the raceway. Eight people were killed as the vehicle rolled on top of them, and five others were seriously injured.

One of the victims, Michael Dickinson, 24, of Spring Valley, was flown to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where he was pronounced dead at 10:41 p.m.

“This sport's been going on probably well over 40 years and we've never had an accident like this before,” said Wayne Nosala, assistant southern regional director for the California Off-Road Vehicle Association.

On Sunday, avid off-roaders and opponents of the sport criticized the lack of safety precautions. While some blamed the promoter of the 200-mile nighttime race for allowing spectators to get so close, others singled out the federal Bureau of Land Management for sanctioning such events.

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