At least 17 people have been injured, some seriously, after two cars crashed into crowds at a meet in Stevenage designed to raise money for bereaved families.
Spectators claimed at least one of the vehicles involved, a Nissan 350Z and a Toyota GT86, was travelling at up to 70mph in the moments before the crash on Monkswood Way at around 9.45pm on Thursday.
Organiser Rix Sidhu said it was the first time the Cruise-Herts group had suffered any serious incident in its 17-year history, with static meets often held in closed-off spaces where enthusiasts show off their modified vehicles.
Mr Sidhu told PA a small number of cars “went rogue” and left the car park, where crowds lined the main road to capture footage of the vehicles at speed.
Mr Sidhu said: “We are devastated.
“I’ve been running this for 10 years and we have never had one incident.
“We held the meet in a car park with a speed bump at the entrance.
“But unfortunately some people went a bit rogue.
“We try and stop that, we urge people, urge them on social media beforehand, not to go out on the roads, not to risk injury or anything.
“But unfortunately, in this age of social media and Snapchat, people want to get footage and post things to their friends, which seems to drive some people to the main road.”
Mr Sidhu said the meet was being help in aid of the 4Louis charity, an organisation which supports those affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of a baby or child.
He said organisers were first-aid trained, and that a liaison officer worked with police to pass on the registration plates of anyone causing trouble.
Describing the incident, Mr Sidhu said the crash involved a Nissan 350Z and a Toyota GT86.
“We saw the car (Toyota) come into the car park and recklessly do a donut manoeuvre,” he said.
“It pulled out of the car park on to the main road and then it was hit by the Nissan, which was coming at speed.
“I’d say at least 60 or 70mph.
“I was walking down the main road to meet up with some friends and then I saw it happen.
“The cars collided and then went into the crowd at speed.
“There were several younger people in the crowd, but they weren’t kids.
“They were about 18 years old-plus.
“It was horrific, the crash.
“We are first-aid trained, just in case, and members of the public were really good too, helping us get to those who were injured.
“There was one woman who couldn’t walk, we had to get four of us to carry her to safety.
“I’m thankful that nobody died.
“Nobody wanted this, we try so hard to make sure this doesn’t happen, we beg people not to race on the roads, if they want to race, there are places they can go for that, tracks where they can go at speed.”
He said organisers had taken the decision to cancel all further meets.
He said: “Some people like drinking and that sort of thing, we just like cars. They are our pride and joy, what we are interested in.
“Unfortunately this incident means we are all going to be tarred with the same brush – people will say we are boy racers.
“But we’ve decided we’re not going to run these any more.
“After 17 years, it’s over.”
The East of England Ambulance Service said it had taken 12 people to three hospitals, Lister Hospital in Stevenage, Watford General Hospital and The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
An air ambulance also attended the incident.
The single carriageway section of A-road is in a non-residential area and passes a retail park near to Stevenage Football Club.
In July 2015, some 17 people were injured after a Ford Fiesta ploughed into a group of bystanders at a car cruise event in Plymouth, Devon.
A 19-year-old woman died and four others suffered life-changing injuries at an unofficial “car cruise” at Trafford Park, Manchester, in May 2018.
Scott Watkins, 25, was jailed in October for nine years and nine months after he caused the death of Sophie Smith by dangerous driving as he lost control of a high-performance vehicle and ploughed into a group of onlookers.
His BMW 3 Series, a friend’s courtesy car, was one of more than 60 high-performance and modified vehicles said to have taken part at the unregulated event.