Local News

Race Track Owner Under Scrutiny After Crash Kills Spectator

Posted September 6, 2003 12:34 p.m. EDT

— A modified Jeep racing on a mud-pit course crashed through a fence into a crowd at a small-town track, killing one woman and injuring 20 others.

Candace Bryant Brown, of Zebulon, was killed at the scene.

Brown was married to one of the assistant chiefs at the Pilot Fire and Rescue Station, where the flag was at half-staff Sunday. Members of the fire and rescue squad met Sunday to talk about the accident and how to support Bryant Brown's family.

There are questions about Five County Raceway itself as authorities investigate the horrific accident.

A member of the planning board in Franklin County told WRAL that Five County Raceway does not have a permit to do the kind of racing that resulted in Saturday's accident. The track's owner, Hugh Williams, reportedly has been fined in the past for not having the proper permits.

Williams' attorney said Williams' go-cart permit allows him to hold a race called the "mud sling, " which was the race being held when a modified Jeep left the track and crashed through a fence into a crowd of spectators.

When daylight hit Sunday, so did the realization of the tragedy.

"It is just terrible," said witness Jimmy Johnson. "Everybody was running everywhere."

Five County Raceway was packed at the time, with hundreds of fans attending the "mud sling."

The idea behind the "mud sling" is for modified vehicles to make it out of a pit. The vehicles are equipped with large tires for traction and lots of horsepower.

Saturday's accident occurred when the Jeep left the pit, but failed to slow down and went crashing through a retaining fence. There were spectators on bleachers only about 10 to 15 feet from the fence.

"At the last minute, he jerked the wheel," Williams said of the Jeep's driver, identified as A.J. McCoy of Burgaw. "it all happened in two seconds or less."

Williams is well known to many of the fans who come to his track, including Saturday's victims.

"We cannot believe it," Williams said. "It is like a nightmare or dream."

Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones said he is on a fact-finding mission that will not be easy.

"I know we are into a long investigation," Jones said. "It is not something we will close in a few days. I am sure of that."

The sheriff said he is looking at possible mechanical problems as the reason why McCoy could not stop his vehicle.

The Jeep was impounded, and Jones said he has taken more than 30 witness statements.

McCoy was not hurt. Jones said McCoy submitted to an alcohol sensor test.

Although the results of the test are not in, the sheriff said he does not think alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash. There will be a meeting Monday to discuss whether or not outside investigative help is needed.