Boy, 6, killed by flying debris at Tacoma monster truck rally

Boy, 6, killed by flying debris at Tacoma monster truck rally
TACOMA, Wash. - A 6-year-old boy was killed and a man was hurt after they were hit by flying chunks of metal while watching a monster truck rally at the Tacoma Dome on Friday night, officials confirmed.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner identified the boy as Sabastian Hizey of Puyallup.

 Medics treat one of the victims at the accident scene Friday night in the Tacoma Dome. (Photo by KOMO News viewer Ashlee Folt)
The gruesome accident happened just after 10 p.m. Friday during the Monster Jam, when an apparent mechanical malfunction in a truck's driveline, under the cab, caused metal fragments to spew out toward the crowd amid a burst of sparks.

Witnesses said the red truck was driving in circles, and a spray of metal pieces came off of the truck and flew over a safety barrier. The pieces knocked the man off of his feet and hit the boy in the head, causing them to bleed and creating a rather gruesome scene.

"It was just a horrendous scene," said witness Gabe Mausten. "It was very disturbing scene."

After the boy was hit, witnesses said a man in shock rose up from his seat and began yelling, "My kid is dead! My kid is dead!" The boy's father was not injured.

The boy and the injured man were treated at the scene and taken to an area hospital by ambulance, fire officials said. The boy later was declared dead by the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office.

Witnesses said after the accident, people began leaving in droves but event organizers continued on with the show.

"It was kind of angering a lot of people that they didn't even stop the show," Mausten said.

Witnesses said some people in the crowd began throwing beer and glass containers at the truck from which the debris was believed to have come.

Christine Moe, of Renton, told the Seattle P-I that the truck had appeared earlier in the show for a race against another truck, but was removed by forklift because it wouldn't start. The truck then reappeared later for a freestyle performance, and that's when the accident occurred.

Some witnesses identified the truck as the "Natural High," one of several trucks that took part in the Thursday night Monster Jam show. All references to that specific truck were removed from the Monster Jam web site by Saturday afternoon.

Feld Motor Sports, organizer of the show, released a brief statement Friday night and then a longer one Saturday afternoon that said, in part:

"All of us at Feld Motor Sports are saddened by the accident that occurred last night at the Monster Jam show in Tacoma. ... Feld Motor Sports is looking into this tragic accident as the safety of all our customers is our top priority and this type of incident has never happened before in the history of Monster Jam events.

"All of us at Feld Motor Sports and all the Monster Jam drivers and crew extend our deepest sympathies to the families involved. We will continue to investigate this incident and will provide additional information as it becomes available," the statement concluded.

The city of Tacoma released the following statement about the accident:

"The City of Tacoma and Tacoma Dome staff are deeply saddened and our hearts go out to the families of the child who died and to the man who was injured from the accident at last night's Monster Jam event.

"The Tacoma Dome takes the safety of its customers very seriously, and we are working with Feld Motor Sports, the promoters of Monster Jam, to investigate the accident and ensure the safety of guests at the remaining shows this weekend," the statement added.

There were four more Monster Jam shows scheduled at the Tacoma Dome this weekend. The shows have not been canceled, but anyone with tickets who doesn't want to attend can apply for a refund by calling Ticketmaster at 866-448-7849.

The death was the latest tragedy in a string of accidents involving the massive trucks, which can weigh more than 9,000 pounds and feature tires more than five feet high. According to the Associated Press, truck accidents have killed five people and injured more than 40 between 1992 and 2007.

In 2007, a monster truck performing outside an Illinois auto-parts store crashed into a crowd and injured nine people.

In 2000, a Virginia woman won a $12.4 million lawsuit, after a truck accident crushed her arm. She and 12 other passengers had paid for a thrill ride in Grave Digger in 1998, when the massive vehicle flipped while doing doughnuts.

Fatalities from the 90s include: A man killed at an Illinois convention center by a souped-up Bronco; a teenager killed in 1997 by a truck that crashed through a fairgrounds fence in Idaho; and a man killed in 1994 by a monster truck that rammed through some rodeo hay bales in Oklahoma.

(Material from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is included in this report.)