An otherwise poignant and overdue tribute to Vietnam veterans turned tragic at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. Police and speedway officials need to fully assess what happened and accept responsibility for any shortcomings on their parts to prevent such a disaster from happening again.
Veterans Alan Richard Mockus and Thomas Franklin Hollingsworth died after a motorcycle accident on the track following the Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration. A police report issued late Tuesday said Mockus, riding with his wife, and Hollingsworth were going in opposite directions and collided head-on.
Details were still sketchy late Tuesday, and theres reason to believe that some of the 2,000 bikers who were part of the event took inappropriate risks and didnt follow the rules. Riders were going in both directions on the track, some in a reckless way, witnesses said. Organizers said motorcyclists had been told to drive no faster than 35 mph and to stay on the speedways apron, below the track. Motorcyclists were to drive on the speedway only during opening and closing ceremonies, and never on the steep banks. Police said alcohol was involved in the fatal collision.
But even if individuals made irresponsible choices, one has to wonder how they were allowed to do so. Concord police and speedway officials needed to ensure the safety of participants. Many questions have not yet been answered, but it appears no one was keeping motorcyclists from driving recklessly on the speedway long after the official event had ended. Participants should have been forced to leave the speedway grounds in an orderly and safe fashion as part of the closing ceremonies.
Scott Cooper, the speedways vice president of communication, said an initial review suggested proper safety procedures were in place. But for some reason, two people who served this country at war are now dead, victims at their own tribute.
Politics as usual in the 9th
With 10 Republicans running for outgoing Rep. Sue Myricks 9th District seat, how does one begin to narrow the choices in the May 8 primary? Maybe start by not voting for the first one to sling mud.
That would be Robert Pittenger, a former state senator who has begun airing an attack ad against fellow Republican Jim Pendergraph, a Mecklenburg County commissioner and former Mecklenburg sheriff. Pittenger calls Pendergraph a lifelong Democrat who took a secret, taxpayer-funded bonus, apparently hoping to convince voters that Pendergraph is some kind of liberal in conservatives clothing.
Anyone who has followed Pendergraphs career knows thats misleading at best. Pittenger is referring to 18 days of unused vacation leave the county paid out to Pendergraph when he retired as sheriff in 2007. Its true Pendergraph was a Democrat who switched to Republican. Kind of like a couple guys named Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms.
Looks like Pittenger hasnt gotten the memo that voters are tired of politics as usual.