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Race Track Blamed for Boy’s Death

ROSEVILLE, Calif. (CN) - A teenager died when his cousin's racecar hit a wall and careened into the pits at Marysville Raceway in Northern California, the boy's parents claim in court.

There were no barriers or protection for spectators where the car left the track, parents of the late Marcus Johnson, 14, say in their wrongful-death complaint in Placer County Court.

Gina Johnson and Robert Johnson sued dirt-track promoters Hawes Motorsports, Cathy Hawes and Paul Hawes; Richard Sinnott; Marysville Raceway Park; and Handy Racing Promotions, on Feb. 18.

Robert Johnson told the local newspaper that the sprint car's steering broke during warm-up laps at about 6 p.m. on March 16, 2013. The race, which was canceled, was to start at 7:30 p.m.

The Yuba County Sheriff's Department said at the time that Marcus was not an official member of his cousin's pit crew.

Marcus and Dale Wondergem Jr., 68, were walking through the pits 200 yards from the track when the car hit them at full speed. Neither survived.

Marcus's parents blame the track's design, maintenance and operation.

"Defendants knew or should have known that the cars racing on the track at a high rate of speed, pose significant risk of injury or death to spectators, and often lose control for a variety of reasons, yet defendants took no steps to guard against these risks," according to the complaint.

They accuse the defendants of "a want of even scant care and an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct for those who run racetracks."

The parents seek economic damages for wrongful death, negligence, gross negligence, premises liability and loss of consortium.

Paul Hawes no longer runs Marysville Raceway Park. The park's FaceBook page calls the track "reconfigured" for the new season, which started in February.

The Johnsons are represented by Patrick Emery, with Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emory, of Santa Rosa.

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