Local News

Wreckage kills spectator at Sampson County racetrack

Posted May 17, 2010 8:20 a.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2010 6:47 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.