Crews recover bodies at Hendrick crash site

Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2004

PATRICK SPRINGS, Va. (AP) Crews on all-terrain vehicles on Monday recovered the bodies of all 10 people killed in the crash of a Hendrick Motorsports plane that was carrying family and friends of one of NASCAR's top syndicates.

Federal investigators said they did not know what caused the Beech 200 King Air to crash Sunday en route from Concord, N.C., to Martinsville Speedway, about 7 miles east of the crash site on Bull Mountain in the foothills of the Appalachians.

A bulldozer cleared a path to the crash site so ATVs could recover the bodies.

''The only method we have of getting up to the scene is on ATVs ... so it's a tedious and slow process,'' State Police Sgt. Rob Carpentieri said.

The plane slammed into the side of the mountain and its wreckage was blown uphill, said Brian Rayner, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator.

Charred debris from the fuselage, engine and other parts was visible, he said.

Rayner said the plane missed its first landing attempt at Blue Ridge Airport before veering off course and smashing into the mountain.

There was no flight data record, cockpit voice recorder or ground proximity monitoring system on the plane, so investigators will try to piece together what happened from the wreckage, radar data and communications between the pilot and the airport, Rayner said.

The crash killed all 10 people aboard, including the son, brother and two nieces of owner Rick Hendrick.

Hendrick, 55, did not join the flight to Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway because he was not feeling well, according to a team spokesman.

Hendrick Motorsports employs 460 workers at its North Carolina compound, which includes race shops and a 15,000-square-foot museum and team store.

The organization has been on a season-long celebration of its 20th anniversary in NASCAR's top series. Hendrick has won five titles in the top series, three truck series championships, and one Busch series crown.

The team has more than 100 Cup series wins, making Rick Hendrick just the second team owner in NASCAR's modern era to surpass that mark. He's also viewed as a pioneer for beginning the movement to multicar teams in the 1990s.

News of the crash halted Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson's victory celebration after the Subway 500 in Martinsville as word of the deaths reached the team, which also includes drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers.

Hendrick Motorsports identified the dead as Ricky Hendrick, 24, Rick Hendrick's son; John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of Hendrick Motorsports; Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, John Hendrick's 22-year-old twin daughters; Joe Jackson, an executive with DuPont; Jeff Turner, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports; Randy Dorton, 50, the team's chief engine builder; Scott Lathram, 38, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; and pilots Richard Tracy, 51, of Charlotte, N.C., and Elizabeth Morrison, 31.

A memorial of flowers, balloons and handwritten signs and cards grew larger Monday outside the Hendrick Motorsports racing shop in North Carolina.

''I just could not stay in my house and do nothing,'' said Lacy Bono, of nearby Mooresville, who also dropped flowers under a street sign bearing the name of Rick Hendrick's late father, Papa Joe Hendrick. ''I needed to come out and pay my respects.''

Ricky Hendrick began his career driving a Busch car for his father, but retired in 2002 because of a racing-related shoulder injury. His father then made him the owner of the Busch car Vickers drove to the series championship last season, and was grooming him for a larger role.

Rick Hendrick pleaded guilty in 1997 to a single count of mail fraud involving the payment of $20,000 to a Honda executive. He was fined $250,000, but avoided jail time because he was battling a near-fatal case of leukemia. He was later pardoned by former President Clinton.

Associated Press sports writer Hank Kurz Jr. contributed to this report from Patrick Springs and Associated Press writer Paul Nowell contributed from Charlotte.

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