Racer dies in track crash
Virginia man drove through barriers and into the woods
A Virginia man’s death Sunday evening remains under investigation by police trying to determine why the race car he was driving traveled past the end of a drag strip at a Budds Creek raceway and through safety barriers before hitting trees in the woods.
Killed in the crash that occurred shortly before 8 p.m. at Maryland International Raceway, authorities report, was 60-year-old Thomas Albert Dunford, a resident of the town of Tazewell in the southwestern corner of Virginia. A St. Mary’s sheriff’s senior officer said that Dunford’s body was taken to the Maryland state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.
“I don’t know if they’ll be able to determine if there was a medical issue,” or possible me- chanical issues including brake failure, sheriff’s Capt. Steven Hall said Monday. “These are [among] things that are being looked at. Everything’s wide open. We’re trying to run down any other possible contributing circumstance.”
The 2006 Mullis dragster that Dunford was driving Sunday, the raceway’s Super Bowl of Bracket Racing, reached a speed of 146 mph, according to police and the track’s website,
as he and another contestant went down the 1,320foot track, before Dunford continued through the full 3,022 feet of a shutdown area. The sheriff’s office reported that “for unknown reasons, it appears he failed to activate his [brakes] or parachute, causing the dragster to travel through the sandpit [area and] water barrels, and into the trees at the end of the track.”
“It’s a long way past the end of the track that he ended up,” Hall said. “There was no indication of any deceleration.”
A track employee said this week that he did not know how many spectators were in the stands when Dunford’s crash occurred.
Mechanicsville volunteer firefighters filed an online report stating that they and rescue squad volunteers responded.
“The first people who arrived had pronounced him [dead] before our units arrived,” Mechanicsville Fire Chief Mark Trowbridge said this week.
The first responders illuminated the crash scene for police investigators, and eventually extricated the deceased driver. They were on the scene for about two hours.
“They said they had to do a little bit to get him out,” the fire chief said, “after police completed their reconstruction in- vestigation.”
Police are seeking cellphone videos that spectators may have taken of the crash, Hall said. “We’ve collected some,” he said.
The sheriff’s office has requested that anyone who witnessed the crash, or has additional information, contact sheriff’s Cpl. Brian Connelly by calling 301-863-4816, ext. *1456, or sending email to brian. connelly@ stmarysmd. com.
Mechanicsville fire and rescue volunteers respond to Sunday evening’s fatal crash at a Budds Creek raceway.