Documents Show Track Owner Had Been Ordered To Halt Mud-Sling Races
Posted September 6, 2003 12:31 p.m. EDT
PILOT, N.C. — New information was discovered Monday about a horrible accident that killed a young mother.
Candace Brown died late Saturday after a souped-up Jeep careened into a crowd of spectators at Five County Raceway. At least 18 people were hurt. The crash happened during a mud-sling race at the dirt track in Franklin County.
As of Monday, no charges had been filed in the accident. But WRAL found documents that indicate the track was operating illegally. Franklin County planners ordered the shutdown of the mud-sling event months before Saturday's tragedy.
After hours worth of runs through a muddy pit, the accident happened in a matter of seconds.
"Right at us," said witness Tommy Floyd. "I mean, right at us."
Floyd watched the modified Jeep drive through the pit, leave the pit out of control and crash through a chain-link fence into a crowd of spectators.
"It was mass hysteria," Floyd said. "There were people pointing blame already. It was just a madhouse."
On Sunday, track owner Hugh Williams called it a nightmare.
"There's no question," Williams said, "the throttle was just stuck open.
"We always warn them and warn them: 'Everybody be on your toes because we're a believer that anything can happen.'"
Documents show that Williams himself was warned months ago to stop the mud-sling races. In letters dating back to May, June and July, Franklin County planners ordered Williams to cease all mud slings because he did not get a special-use permit.
The documents say Williams continued with "total disgregard" for county ordinances and safety guidelines that would have been attached to the permit.
The county planning director said that, had Saturday's event been held with a permit, it is highly unlikely that a crowd of spectators would have been able to stand anywhere near the end of the mud-slinging pit.
Williams said he was advised his go-kart permit covered the mud sling. Earlier this month, his attorney appealed the planning department orders.
In sharp contrast to the raceway events, Sheriff Jerry Jones said his investigators will move slowly to sort out the facts.
"We're going to do it thorough," Jones said. "We're going to do it complete. We're going to make the right decisions.
"We understand how people feel, and we are compassionate with them. But we also know we've got a job to do, and we're going to do it exactly right."
Jones said his office likely will ask the State Bureau of Investigation to examine the Jeep. Investigators also want to know if any spectators videotaped the accident, and they plan to visit other dirt tracks to compare operations.
Williams declined to talk to WRAL about the permits Monday after consulting with his attorney.