Local News

Crews Work To Reach Hendrick Crash Site

Posted October 25, 2004 6:27 a.m. EDT

— Crews on all-terrain vehicles on Monday recovered all 10 bodies from the wreckage of a Hendrick Motorsports plane that was carrying family and friends of one of NASCAR's top syndicates.

Federal investigators said they did not know what caused the Beech 200 King Air to crash Sunday en route from Concord, N.C., to Martinsville Speedway, approximately seven miles east of the crash site on Bull Mountain in the foothills of the Appalachians.

A bulldozer cleared a path to the crash site so ATVs could recover the bodies.

"The only method we have of getting up to the scene is on ATVs ... so it's a tedious and slow process," State Police Sgt. Rob Carpentieri said. He said the bodies were taken to the medical examiner's office in Roanoke for identification.

The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation Monday.

"There is no information that any flight data or cockpit voice recorders were on board the aircraft," safety investigator Brian Rayner said.

Rayner said tapes of any communication between the pilot and the FAA had been requested by air traffic specialists and would be reviewed Monday.

Asked how the plane hit, Rayner said, "It's my understanding that the airplane struck a steep incline and that the airplane and all its associated parts are confined to an area approximately 200 feet long."

The crash killed all 10 people aboard, including the son, brother and two nieces of owner Rick Hendrick.

Hendrick, 53, did not go to the race because he wasn't feeling well, a team spokesman said.

Hendrick employs 460 workers at its North Carolina compound, which includes race shops and a 15,000-square-foot museum and team store.

"It's certainly a black Sunday for all of us," said Jerry Gappens, of Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Early Monday, a chaplain from the Motor Racing Outreach group met with Hendrick employees for a prayer service. Counselors and chaplains were available for workers.

News of the crash halted Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson's victory celebration after the Subway 500 in Martinsville as word of the deaths reached the Hendrick team, which also includes drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers.

Ronnie Foley, 48, and Timothy Cooper, 43, said they saw the plane fly over Sunday while they were waiting for the race to begin on TV.

"It was like it was idling. It sounded like it was at about half throttle," said Cooper, who was about three miles from the crash site with Foley.

"Not that it sounded funny," Cooper said. "It just wasn't as loud as it should have been."

Hendrick Motorsports identified the dead as: Ricky Hendrick, 24, Rick Hendrick's son; John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of Hendrick Motorsports; Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, John Hendrick's 22-year-old twin daughters; Joe Jackson, an executive with DuPont; Jeff Turner, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports; Randy Dorton, 50, the team's chief engine builder; Scott Lathram, 38, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; and pilots Richard Tracy and Elizabeth Morrison, 31.

A makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons and handwritten signs and cards grew larger Monday outside the Hendrick Motorsports racing shop, as fans acknowledged the profound loss suffered by one of auto racing's most successful families.

"I just could not stay in my house and do nothing," said Lacy Bono, of nearby Mooresville, who also dropped flowers under a street sign named for Rick Hendrick's late father, Papa Joe Hendrick. "I needed to come out and pay my respects."

Bono knew some of the crash victims, including engine builder Randy Dorton and Scott Lathram, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

"This is a tragedy for the entire sport," she said. "When that happens, all the fans band together and we become one big family."

Joan MacDonald, also of Mooresville, couldn't control her tears after she left flowers at the Hendrick shop. She said she wanted to show her support for the team members who were trying to prepare for this weekend's race in Atlanta.

"They know they have to get ready for the Atlanta race, so they will pick themselves up and focus," she said. "I'm sure it will be difficult but they know the (title) race isn't over yet. Everything is very tense."