The 10 Most Insane Monster Truck Accidents
There are few vehicles quite as American as the monster truck. Take a gas-guzzling pickup and then shoot it up with steroids, making it the size of a New York City apartment, then let it loose in a pit of mud to crush other cars, and you’ve got a national pastime that makes baseball look like a bunch of sissies standing around. But with great power comes great potential for chaos, and monster trucks go out of control more often than you’d think. In this feature, we’ll share ten giant truck accidents that made headlines.
When you’re crushing cars, it’s kind of a given that a good deal of debris is going to be generated. However, that debris is also supposed to stay in the stands. That wasn’t the case in 2009 at a Monster Jam show in the Tacoma Dome, when a Frisbee-sized piece of metal went flying off of the Natural High truck as it did doughnuts on the arena floor. That chunk of steel made a graceful and terrible arc right into the skull of nine year old Sebastian Hizey, killing him instantly. Bizarrely, the five-day Monster Jam run at the Dome went on as scheduled, with sold-out seats and a moment of silence at the beginning of the next show for the dead boy.
For some abstruse reason, auto parts stores really love to bring monster trucks in for events. The Napa Auto Parts chain held a national truck tour in 2007 where they dispatched a group of massive vehicles to stores across the country, only to discover that parking lots aren’t always the safest places to crush cars. About 100 people came out to the event at the DeKalb store where a driver was scheduled to roll over a quartet of automobiles, but things started to go wrong pretty quickly as he was unable to surmount them all. On his last pass, the driver hit the gas a little too hard and the truck went flying into the air and through the throng of spectators, injuring nine people including a three year old girl before smashing through a fence and getting stalled on railroad tracks.
2009 was a rough year for monster trucks, as several accidents shook the sport. One of the most shocking happened in Madison, Wisconsin at the Motor Sports Monster Truck and Thrill Show. Promoter George Eisenhart Jr, who had been in the auto show business for the better part of two decades, was stepping onto the floor at the Alliant Energy Center in his role as MC to close the show out. Unfortunately, a truck named Samson was driving out of the field at the same time. Jacked ten feet high in the air, Samson’s driver never saw Eisenhart until the crowd started screaming, and by then it was too late. He was killed immediately.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
It’s one thing to be in the stands at a monster truck show, but to actually ride in the truck? Hard pass. Back in the day, though, that was a thing that they let people do. In 1998, twelve passengers were riding in the bed of the Grave Digger truck at an event in Oceanfront Beach in Virginia. The driver decided to do some “high speed turns” and, quite naturally, the passengers didn’t make out too well. Grave Digger flipped over on the sand, trapping the passengers inside it. One woman, Joy Kubitza, found her right arm caught between the truck and the ground, and it was damaged so badly that she will never regain functionality in it and lives with constant, crippling pain.
There’s something about monster truck shows that makes people feel like they have to get close to the action, no matter what. Safety regulations mandate a significant distance between the trucks and the spectators, as well as at least one layer of barricades between the two, but when you’re talking about a truck that can drive over just about anything those barricades don’t really do much. In 1992, a race at the Galesburg Motor Speedway in Michigan went horribly wrong when a speeding truck left the track and headed straight into the crowd after jumping a row of cars. The truck landed oddly on its left wheel, causing it to change direction rapidly, jump a three-foot wall and crash into the grandstand. A six year old boy was killed and over a dozen more injured.
As much as we love monster trucks here in the States, they’ve become a truly global phenomenon. In 2014, attendees at an annual motor show in the Netherlands town of Haaksbergen were elated to see a giant truck smash its way over a row of five parked cars. They were less elated when the truck’s brakes gave out, sending it careening into the assembled crowd. Only a small fence stood between the rampaging vehicle and the audience, and it crushed it like a bundle of twigs. Three people were killed in the carnage and at least 20 more injured. The aftermath saw the driver charged with manslaughter and the mayor of Haaksbergen resign his position.
Not all monster truck accidents take place as part of a show. Although it’s expensive and obnoxious to drive a huge jacked-up truck on the street, people do it. And when you consider that everything’s bigger in Texas, it should come as no surprise that the Lone Star State has lots of civilian monster trucks. In 2011, one such driver, Eric Crutchfield, staggered out of the Spearmint Rhino strip club in Dallas several drinks over the limit. He clambered into his enormous vehicle and put it in gear, unaware that a woman named Kasey McKenzie was directly in front of him. She was crushed to death beneath his tires and he couldn’t see a thing because he was too far off the ground. McKenzie’s family won a wrongful death lawsuit and were awarded $10.5 million.
Niagara Falls, NY
Monster trucks are famous for having evocative, slightly threatening names, but maybe the driver of “Bad Medicine” should rethink his. At a show at the Niagara Falls Convention Center in 1982, that truck was racing Taurus when the driver of Bad Medicine, Don Van Loo, was knocked unconscious. His jacked-up vehicle kept on going right into the bleachers. Seven people were injured and one man died – 82 year old Lester Gilliam, who in his last act on Earth grabbed a ten year old boy and threw him out of the path of the truck, saving his life.
It’s a true tragedy when a truck loses control and kills a bunch of spectators. But how would you feel if your monster truck ended the life of your best friend? That’s what happened to driver Thomas Meents during a race in 1994 at the Claremore Speedway when he lost control of his jacked-up truck and flipped it on a pile of hay bales. At the end of his truck’s trajectory was Mike Hickerson, Meents’ best friend in the entire world, who took the whole impact on his body and died of a broken neck at the scene. Five others were injured as well.
They like monster trucks south of the border as well, but an incident at an air show in Chihuahua, Mexico left a sour taste in the audience’s mouth. Driver Francisco Velasquez was doing jumps over cars when he took a sharp turn and his helmet fell off, driving his skull into the frame of his vehicle. He lost consciousness with his foot on the gas, and what happened next should come as no surprise. Velasquez’s truck plowed right into a crowd of spectators, who were standing in the pit area in violation of the show’s rules. There was no safety barrier in between, so the carnage was indescribable. Nine people lost their lives and many more suffered horrible injuries. Velasquez was charged with manslaughter for his role in the incident.