Deadly Drag Race Crash

Associated Press Writer

SELMER, Tenn. (AP) - Investigators said Monday it will take time to figure out exactly why a drag-racing car lost control, spinning into a crowd of spectators and killing six people.

"We'll look at everything, including the driver and the actual car itself, and everything surrounding the venue," said Mike Browning, spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The six victims were in their teens and early 20s, Browning said. Saturday's wreck injured at least 20 others, including a 5-year-old boy, who were taken to hospitals in Tennessee and Mississippi.

The crash occurred at a Cars for Kids charity show, which has been an annual event in this small town 80 miles east of Memphis for 18 years. The drivers always do crowd-pleasing burnouts - spinning the tires to make them heat up and smoke - at the end of the parade.

Amateur video of the crash, broadcast on WMC-TV in Memphis, showed the car's engine revving loudly before the vehicle sped down the highway. After a few hundred feet, the smoking car skidded off the road and into the crowd.

"It's been a safe event until this year," Police Chief Neal Burks said Monday.

The driver was pro drag racer Troy Warren Critchley, an Australian drag racer now based in Wylie, Texas. He suffered minor injuries and was taken by car to a hospital, authorities said.

David Mitchell, the state Department of Safety commissioner, said the driver and his crew have been interviewed and were cooperative.

District Attorney General Mike Dunavant said Monday that he had not decided whether to bring criminal charges, but that it was still a possibility.

Witnesses have questioned the decision to let the driver speed down a highway with no guard rails, lined on both sides by hundreds of spectators.

"It ain't really safe to do anything with drag cars on a city street," said 19-year-old Garett Moore, who said he was about 15 feet away from the wreck, but was uninjured. "They shouldn't have done it."

There was a short guard rail along part of the highway, but not along the stretch where the crash occurred.

Nick Staples, who was at the event with his wife and three children, said he was standing 20 feet from where the car plowed into the audience.

"There should have been guard rails," Staples said. "But even if there had been, it wouldn't have mattered."

Mourners placed small votive candles, flowers, teddy bears and a ceramic angel at the crash site, located along state Highway 64 near the intersection with Highway 45.

The Highway Patrol said Raven Griswell, 15, of Finger, and Sean Michael Driskill, 22, of Adamsville, died at the scene. Four others - Brook L. Pope, 20, of Selmer; Scarlett Replogle, 15, of Selmer;Kimberly A. Barfield, 17, of Adamsville; and Nicole Griswell, 19, of Selmer, died in hospitals.

Authorities closed the festival after the crash.

Cars for Kids holds several events throughout the nation and raises close to $200,000 annually for charities that help children in need, according to its Web site.

The charity was formed in 1990, two years after founder Larry Price's son, Chad, suffered a severe head injury in a bicycle accident. Price promised that if his son was saved from lifelong injuries, he would spend the rest of his life raising funds for disabled children, according to the Web site.

Price said he hoped to keep the charity going, but he wouldn't do any more burnouts on public streets.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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