Spectators killed at US California 200 off-road race

Eyewitnesses described people "flying in all directions"

At least eight people have been killed after a 4x4 vehicle careered into a crowd watching an off-road motor race in California.

Twelve other people were injured in the crash, at the California 200 desert night race near Lucerne Valley, 100 miles (160km) from Los Angeles.

The driver, named as 28-year-old Brett Sloppy, was unhurt and reportedly fled the scene to avoid an angry crowd.

Police said Mr Sloppy, from the San Diego area, would not be charged.

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.

They stand close to the path of the off-road vehicles, sometimes with little or no protection.

Crushed

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

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"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.

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