US & Canada

Driver 'devastated' after California race crash

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Media captionEyewitnesses described people "flying in all directions"

A 4x4 driver has said he was "lost and devastated" after a crash at a desert race that killed eight spectators.

Brett Sloppy wrote on Facebook: "My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and friends involved".

Twelve others were injured in the crash on Saturday at the California 200 desert night race, 100 miles (160km) from Los Angeles.

Witnesses have said spectators had pressed dangerously close to the track before Mr Sloppy's vehicle rolled over.

"I just thought it would be fun to be close," Cheyenne Frantzich, 15, said on CBS's Early Show on Monday.

"And it was a big mistake."

Her 20 year-old sister Danica Frantzich was among those killed.

Police have said Mr Sloppy, 28, would not face charges in the crash. He was unhurt but police had to escort him away from the angry crowd.

"Thank you too all my friends for sticking with me even thru [sic] these tragic times," he wrote on Facebook.

"I love you all."

Joaquin Zubieta of the California Highway Patrol, said state vehicle laws did not apply because it was a sanctioned racing event held with the approval of the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Tens of thousands of spectators attend the annual race, which takes place on a 50-mile off-road track at Lucerne Valley, California.

They stand close to the path of the off-road vehicles, sometimes with little or no protection, though racing body Mojave Desert Racing says in its rules spectators are required to stand 100ft away from the race course.

Crushed

A witness said the crash happened moments after the start of the race.

"When [the vehicle] came up, it like caught air and flew sideways, and I just saw people started scrambling at that point," the unnamed witness told local media.

"As soon as it hit, it rolled right on top and it just hit people and people flew - went in all kinds of directions. People were scattering, people were running and trying to help people."

Photographer David Conklin said the car sped over a jump known on the course as "the rockpile" and went out of sight.

"I saw one woman with a major head wound lying in a pool of blood. Someone else was crushed beneath the car," he said.

Pictures of previous races show spectators standing close to the path of the vehicles.

The race goes through a dry river bed in the southern California desert. The course is illuminated only by spotlights mounted on the cars.