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Wreckage kills spectator at Sampson County racetrack

Posted May 17, 2010
Updated May 18, 2010

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— The engine of a dragster burst through a fence and hit a spectator Sunday night at Harrells Raceway in Sampson County, authorities said Monday.

Investigators said Joseph Wactor, of Brooklyn, N.Y., lost control of his car during a two-car drag race and crashed. He was traveling at 130 to 135 mph when the car hit a guardrail and broke apart, authorities said.

Bystander killed by flying engine at racetrack Bystander killed by flying engine at racetrack

The car's engine flew about 100 feet into the crowd and hit Terry McDougald, of Lillington, who was killed, authorities said. Another spectator suffered burns from a fuel cell that flew into the crowd and was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for treatment.

Wactor suffered several injuries but refused medical treatment, authorities said.

Flying debris also damaged several vehicles parked alongside the racetrack, authorities said.

"It's real tragic," Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said. "Speed can can kill you whether you're on the highway or on the race track, and the driver of the car was very fortunate to have survived."

Although it rained earlier Sunday, authorities said, weather conditions aren't considered to be a factor in the wreck. Other races were held without problem before Wactor crashed, they said. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Harrells Raceway is privately owned and isn't sanctioned by the International Hot Rod Association or regulated by the state.

A driver was killed at the same track in 1992 when he crashed into a guard rail near the finish line.

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  • Seeminglyopposed May 18, 2010

    OMG, I have known this family for a very long time and was saddened to hear of this tragic incident. It reminds us just how short and unexpected something like this can take us from our loved ones. May the entire family mend whatever broken spirits there are between them and come and love one another. God Bless You All and May You Find Comfort In His Arms.

  • morebadnews May 17, 2010

    This story is very tragic! my thoughts and prayers are with the family. Also, I can't believe after reading the story of someone's death someone points out an error in spelling! That is a little trivial considering the point of the story.

  • tgriffin09 May 17, 2010

    This is tragic news as Terry was always a good friend to me. He leaves behind a great family and will be sorely missed. There is no doubt the angels came for him..Terry Mac I'll miss you Brother may you RIP...Until we meet again Terry G.......

  • NHFD 4030 May 17, 2010

    Have to love the media, with the exaggeration and even the variance of story from one media outlet to another.

    The car wrecked on the track, and pieces flew everywhere. What killed the spectator was the engine, which literally went flying over the fence.

  • nomorethanthat May 17, 2010

    Thanks for making the correction while I was entering my comment.

  • nomorethanthat May 17, 2010

    Whatever happened to sight editing in addition to word processor editing? In the third paragraph the author of this article entered "his" and not "hit". This typo will pass spell check but it stands out when reading the article. This type of error is becoming more common on this site.