As Kerrville police continue investigating into a fatal drag racing crash that killed two children on Saturday at the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, new questions are now being raised about the event’s safety and whether the tragedy was preventable.
At Airport Race Wars 2, the race put on by Flyin’ Diesel Performance, a 1990 Ford Mustang driven by Michael Gonzales lost control roughly halfway down the track, sliding into the crowd of spectators with no barriers protecting them.
Since the event, Kerrville city officials and Kerr County officials have declined multiple requests to comment publicly on the event beyond a prayer dedicated to the victims during a county commissioners’ court meeting on Monday night.
Here’s what we know so far.
The crash killed two children, a 6-year-old boy identified by family members as Daniel Trujillo-Jones and an 8-year-old boy that has not yet been identified by authorities.
A third victim, identified as Rebecca Cedillo of Converse, died of her injuries, authorities confirmed on Wednesday.
Five others were injured in the crash, with three sustaining serious injuries. They include Chance Jones, Daniel’s father; Jones’ girlfriend Katy Walls; and Michael Gonzales, who was driving the car that crashed. All four remained hospitalized as of Monday, according to police.
The first event
Flyin’ Diesel Performance and Offroad, the organizers of the race, held its first “Airport Race Wars” on March 13.
“We feel this is a great family style event that will attract many families and racers from not only Kerrville, but from surrounding counties and cities,” Ross Dunagan, the owner of the company, wrote in the event proposal that was submitted and approved by the Joint Airport Board before the event.
Though operational plans for the second event appeared mostly similar, the October event was slated to be much larger.
In the event proposal for the March race, Dunagan said he expected roughly 300 spectators for an event featuring up to 60 racers. For the October event, records show that Dunagan was expecting 3,000 spectators for an event featuring 120 racers.
In the event proposal for the October race, Dunagan wrote that “water-filled jersey barriers” will be placed on both sides of the race track. The barriers are designed to be temporary and easily moved. The ones used at the event were made of plastic.
“These barriers will protect spectators and airport lights adjacent,” Dunagan wrote.
But those barriers did not extend beyond the finish line, where spectators were lined up with nothing to protect them when the Mustang hurled toward them.
Some attendees have said that they felt the tragedy could have been prevented with more safety precautions in place.
Officials, organizers’ response to the tragedy
So far, city and county officials, along with Dunagan, have not responded or otherwise declined to comment about the crash.
During the Kerr County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday night, county commissioners said a prayer for the victims of the crash.
In the meeting before the event, they did not bring up any concerns about the event’s safety or how organizers were prepared to handle a larger event.
“This has been a very mutually beneficial relationship,” Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly said during the regular meeting held on Sept. 13.
Part of the funds raised from the races have gone to Kerrville Public School Foundation and the airport for holding the event, the documents showed.
The Kerrville City Council is slated to meet Tuesday. A joint airport board meeting that was supposed to be held this week was canceled.
Spectators at the race may be limited in the legal avenues they can pursue.
“Before anyone is allowed to enter the airport grounds we will have, at the gate, a waiver that every individual entering the premises will be required to sign,” Dunagan wrote. “We want to ensure that the airport property and staff as well as our staff and company will be free from liability.”
By signing the waiver, spectators agreed they could not sue the race organizers, the city, the county or the airport over any claims of injury, disability or death.