CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Mexican government officials and event organizers on Monday blamed the driver of a monster truck for losing control and plowing into a crowd of spectators, killing eight and injuring 79. Motor-sports experts, however, pointed at the organizers, saying the setup of the state-sponsored show was blatantly deficient and life-threatening.
Organizers of the "Extreme Aeroshow" said hundreds of families had gathered without permission in what was supposed to be the pit area at one end of a makeshift arena in a park in Chihuahua, capital of the border state of Chihuahua.
The pit area was unprotected by any barrier and sat feet from where the monster truck known as "Big Show" was crushing a pair of old cars, leaping into the air and rolling over their hoods and roofs. Video of the accident shows the truck coming down hard off the second car, bouncing and then speeding out of control into the crowd.
One organizer said the spectators hadn't been moved out of the pit zone before the show because "crowd management is very difficult."
The safety situation was "about as bad as it could get," said Marty Garza, spokesman for the Monster Truck Racing Association, the primary safety organization for the industry in the United States.
"There was some pretty blatant disregard for the safety of spectators," he said. "There is no excuse for why the spectators were situated as they were, period."
It was the second disaster in less than a month to focus attention on Mexico's patchy and loosely enforced system of consumer safety. Experts widely blamed much of the billions of dollars' worth of damage from Tropical Storm Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid, which killed 157 people and displaced thousands, on the government's failure to prevent home construction in floodplains and enforce building standards for highways and bridges.
State prosecutor Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Nicolas told reporters Monday that he was investigating whether the city of Chihuahua's civil protection agency or the air show organizers had been criminally negligent by ignoring international standards for monster truck shows. He said he might try to bring in international experts as consultants.
Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte and organizers of the weekend event sought to pin responsibility on the driver, saying he should only have driven in one direction over the cars, away from the pit area.
"He turned and came back in the wrong direction, came back to do a jump, and that's unfortunately where this accident happened," Duarte told Milenio Television on Monday.