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Officer: Sand draggers need to be cautious
While the impromptu sand drags may be a popular weekend pastime at the Dune Buggy Flats area of the Imperial Sand Dunes, they are also dangerous, if not deadly.
In the wake of a teenager's death at a dunes drag Friday, Officer Eric Price of the California Highway Patrol says duners need to be more careful when they decide to race their vehicles.
"You need to watch out for yourself and for others around you. It's a lot more difficult to be safe out in the dunes than it is on a highway."
Price said what makes driving in the dunes so dangerous, especially in the area where these sand drags happen, is that they are not controlled and there is no speed limit to prevent them from taking place.
"Due to the volume of people who go out there, especially during major holiday weekends, it's hard to stay away from each other," Price said.
At about 4:30 Friday afternoon, a teenage boy was killed at Dune Buggy Flats during one of these impromptu sand drags.
According to Price, the 13-year-old boy was riding his small quad across the starting area of the sand drags and was struck by a sand rail driver who was starting his run down the lane.
"Apparently the teenage boy was on his way back to the campground and crossed into the path of the dune buggies and was struck," Price said.
The boy was pronounced dead at the scene before the requested life flight arrived. Price said the CHP, which is investigating the accident, has not yet released the boy's name.
A phone call Monday to the Imperial Valley Coroner's Office had not been returned as of press time.
The accident that claimed the boy's life was one of at least two serious accidents in the dunes in recent days.
Thomas Zale, an associate field manager for the Bureau of Land Management in the El Centro Field Office, confirmed that at about 3 p.m. Saturday, an 8-year-old was run over by a sand rail near the Patton Valley area.
He suffered serious leg injuries was flown flown to an area hospital for treatment, Zale added.
While he does not know the circumstances of either accident, Zale encourages duners to follow all the rules pertaining to young riders.
Zale said riders 14 years old and younger must be under the direct supervision of an adult at all times.
"No matter how accomplished of a rider they are or how much protective gear they are wearing," Zale said, "they still need to be supervised by an adult."
Price explained that most impromptu sand drags happen in an area of the dunes that has come to be known as Dune Buggy Flats.
"It's the first set of dunes you come across as you leave the campground," Price said. "It's north of the All American Canal and east of the campgrounds."
He said sand drags involve a number duners getting together to race their vehicles across the top part of Dune Buggy Flats, which has a flat surface.
"It's been going on for years, and a lot of people go out there to participate. It can be dangerous not only to the racers but to other people in the area."
The New Year's weekend is traditionally the second busiest of the year at the Imperial Sand Dunes, with the Thanksgiving weekend the busiest, according to the BLM.