Drag racer charged with vehicular homicide in parade crash - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Drag racer charged with vehicular homicide in parade crash

SELMER, Tenn. (AP) - A professional drag racer whose car plowed into a parade crowd last summer, killing six people and injuring 22 others, surrendered to authorities on multiple felony charges.

Troy Critchley, 38, is charged with six counts of vehicular homicide due to recklessness and 22 counts of reckless aggravated assault, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He was indicted during a March 4 grand jury session but the charges remained under seal until Thursday.

Critchley, an Australian-born driver who now lives in Texas, was performing a "burnout" routine - spinning the tires to send up clouds of smoke - when his car crashed into spectators at a charity event June 16 in Selmer, about 80 miles east of Memphis.

The burnout was staged on a city street with no protective barriers between the dragster and hundreds of spectators on both sides. Many of those hurt suffered serious injuries.

Critchley attended a court hearing, posted a bond of $35,000, surrendered his passport and was released Thursday. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Critchley and his lawyer, Robert Hutton of Memphis, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The drag racer is also named in lawsuits filed by relatives of victims and people who were hurt. The suits, some also naming the city and the sponsoring charity Cars for Kids, contend Critchley was driving recklessly.

Selmer Police Chief Neil Burks testified at Thursday's hearing that the Cars for Kids event was organized and handled the same way as in previous years. He said people were asked to step back from the street.

Critchley, who filed for bankruptcy protection after the accident, testified he is working but has not since driven in a race.

Testifying as an expert witness for Critchley, drag racer Bobby Umstead said revving the motor did not affect the speed of Critchley's dragster. A Critchley family friend also testified on his behalf.

District Attorney General Mike Dunavant did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol, which investigated the crash, issued a statement saying authorities interviewed more than 250 witnesses, including Critchley and his mechanics, and a specialty team reconstructed the crash scene.

Routine blood tests showed Critchley had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, the statement said.

The patrol said related documents and reports were being withheld as part of the "ongoing prosecution."

Court records show Critchley was convicted of drunken driving in Virginia in 2000. He lost his driver's license for a year and paid $381 in fines and court costs.

Mark Donahoe, an attorney for families of five accident victims suing for damages, said he attended the hearing and agreed with the bond amount.

Donahoe said Critchley voluntarily surrendered and the charges do not involve a "specific intent crime. It is based on recklessness. So it is not like he took a gun and went out and shot at everybody."

"We are certainly interested in the criminal prosecution," he said.

Donahoe said he would have to wait until after the criminal case to get a deposition from Critchley for the civil cases.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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