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Marysville big rig racing crash leaves 1 dead; track temporarily closed

5:57 PM, Aug 15, 2010   |    comments
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MARYSVILLE, CA - A driver racing a big rig was killed Saturday night after colliding with another semi at the Marysville Raceway Park, according to authorities.

The crash happened just before 10:15 p.m. in the first big rig competition to ever be held at the raceway, said Yuba County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Melanie Oakes.

Responding deputies found the eight-wheel big rig cab overturned and the driver, identified as Merle Shephard, 56, of Rio Linda, inside the truck with fatal injuries, said Oakes.

Race officials said the racing big rigs got up to 45 to 50 miles per hour on the oval dirt track. Shephard's family said he did not have a roll cage on his truck.

"This race should have never happened," said stepson Joe Desfino. "There were so many other accidents on the race track (Saturday) night, it was ridiculous."

No one else was hurt.

Family members said Shephard was a professional big rig driver. He spent Saturday nights at the Marysville Raceway helping out as a track and pit stewart.

"It's pretty upsetting," said Joshua Shell, Shephard's step-grandson. "At least he died doing what he loved."

Tim Ford introduced Shephard to officiating at the race and they had been friends for 25 years. He witnessed the race and can't believe the outcome.

"It's a shock that it happened. But, it's racing. Anything can happen anytime," said Ford. "The track conditions were safe. Accidents do happen."

Meanwhile, the event promoter, Paul Hawes would not comment about the incident, but he released this statement:

"Our hearts are broken at the loss of a close friend and member of our close-knit family. Our prayers go out to Merle's wife and family."

All racing events have been cancelled for the rest of the season according to a voice recording for the Marysville Raceway.

This is the first death at the park in its 42-year history.

By Suzanne Phan, sphan@news10.net

Twitter: @suzannephan

Related story: Racing fans say safety behind the wheel key after Marysville racing big rig crash. 

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