Story by Alan Scher Zagier, Associated Press
Photo by Kurt Rodewald, digitalBURG
(COLUMBIA, Mo.) — Five spectators were injured at the Missouri State Fair on Sunday night when an off-duty officer lost control of a modified police car in a charity race. It was one of two crashes in an hour on the fair’s final night.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol identified the driver as Tyson Russell, 25, of Crocker, Mo. The town’s police chief said Monday that Russell, who was not injured, works for the St. Robert Police Department in Pulaski County.
Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a patrol spokesman, said Russell lost control of his car in a multi-vehicle crash during a heat race at the annual Battle of the Badges event at the State Fair Speedway in Sedalia. The event was a benefit for Special Olympics. Law enforcement officers from across the state race modified Ford Crown Victorias or Mercury Grand Marquis with padded roll bars and metal firewalls.
Crocker’s car jumped a guardrail barrier on a curve and went through a safety fence, hitting five spectators in the track’s infield and pit area. Officials identified the injured victims as Mark Quisenberry, 57, and Archie Simpson, 67, both of Columbia; Lela Wood, 34, and Jessalin Degonia, 27, both of California; and Barry Smith, 46, of Florence.
Stosberg said he expected Wood and Degonia to be released from the hospital on Monday afternoon. Quisenberry, who was flown to University Hospital in Columbia, is listed in serious but stable condition. Smith and Simpson suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
The trooper credited the significant number of officers at the fair Sunday — some working the event, some attending the race on the fair’s Law Enforcement Day — for their quick responses to the two crashes.
Fair officials canceled the remainder of the race soon after the 9 p.m. crash. Just 45 minutes earlier, a 15-year-old Carrolton driver suffered serious injuries when his racecar overturned several times while negotiating a curve. He was flown by helicopter to University Hospital and also listed in serious but stable condition Monday morning, Stosberg said.
The teen driver, whose name was not released, was involved in a sprint car event, where racers often get behind the wheel years earlier, Stosberg said.
“Young children start racing in the first, second and third grade in these sprint cars,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to have a young driver who could have 10 years’ experience.”
A State Fair spokeswoman declined to discuss the accidents, referring questions to the Highway Patrol. Charity race organizers with Top Tier promotions did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.