Racer dies in track crash

Vir­ginia man drove through bar­ri­ers and into the woods

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JOHN WHAR­TON jwhar­ton@somd­news.com

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.

Dun­ford

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ME­CHAN­ICSVILLE VOL­UN­TEER FIRE DE­PART­MENT

Me­chan­icsville fire and res­cue vol­un­teers re­spond to Sun­day evening’s fa­tal crash at a Budds Creek race­way.

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