Stevenage car meet cancelled after crash, organiser says

Sunita Patel-Carstairs, news reporter

The organiser of a car meet event in Stevenage has said there won't be any more after "reckless" drivers caused a smash in which 17 people were injured.

The crash happened during a Cruise Herts car meet - a group for car enthusiasts which has been holding regular events for 17 years.

Rix Sidhu, who has been in charge for the last 10 of these, said the gatherings aim to provide a "safe space" for car lovers to "show off their pride and joy" and meet within a controlled, closed environment.

Thursday night's event was designed to raise money for charity, said Mr Sidhu, with "no speed element to it".

"But unfortunately some people went a bit rogue," he said.

"We have a family atmosphere at our events, and lots of kids have attended over the years, and their parents have got in touch to say how much the kids enjoyed it.

"The problem is we can't control the people driving. Last night, people were recklessly driving up the dual carriageway.

"We work with the police. Cruise Herts is a strictly static car meet but we can't control the crowds.

"We tell people, 'Please, please don't race', but we can't control people who are reckless and who ruin it.

"The problem is, there was a big crowd last night, and they're all filming and the crowd somehow edges people to do reckless things."

He added: "A car recklessly pulled out in front of another car and that's when the crash happened.

"We don't know the driver of the car that pulled out - he's not part of the Cruise Herts group, we don't know who he is."

Mr Sidhu said those who usually attend the gatherings are "not bad people" and that he was "devastated" by the smash, the first in his decade-long tenure.

"We have a liaison officer to pass number plates to police if there is ever any trouble; we try to make it as safe as possible," 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'.

"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."

He said: "We were actually doing something good last night - we were raising money for a charity which helps premature babies. We're not bad people. We just want to get our side of this across."

Describing the "horrific" crash, Mr Sidhu said it involved a Nissan 350Z and a Toyota GT86.

"We saw the car (Toyota) come into the car park and recklessly do a doughnut 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.

"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."

He went on: "Me myself, as a club owner, I felt sick. This has obviously had a big impact on us.

"I think a lot of people were in shock and realistically now it has shown people just how dangerous it can be, racing here.

"To see an individual get cut out of his car was horrible. To see people on the floor not able to move, it wasn't a nice sight."

He said several of the group are trained in first aid and together with members of the public rushed to help the injured.

"There was one woman who couldn't walk, we had to get four of us to carry her to safety," he said.

"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.

"But we've decided we're not going to run these any more. After 17 years, it's over."