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Crash kills driver; today’s racing off

What historically has been a weekend of entertaining and friendly local competitive racing to raise money for the Red Cross of Northcentral Pennsylvania turned to tragedy Saturday when the driver of a car racing in the Susquehanna 500 Mini-Indy at Williamsport’s Brandon Park died from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle crash Saturday afternoon.

James D. Wither III, 52, of South Williamsport, died of massive head trauma, according to Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr.

Wither was operating a car representing the Alberts Spray Solutions team when his vehicle veered off a turn of a park road used for the race track and hit a metal light pole.

He reportedly was driving the car at a speed exceeding 30 mph just prior to the crash in the northwest corner of the park.

“He was out of control,” said Hayley Croulx, of Williamsport, a race spectator. “He hit this pole.”

Wither was transported to Williamsport Regional Medical Center by ambulance following the crash, which occurred shortly after 3 p.m.

He died in the hospital emergency room at 3:39 p.m., Kiessling said.

Wither was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, the coroner said.

Emergency personnel responding to the scene administered CPR to the victim before transporting him to the medical center.

Witnesses said he sustained some blood loss.

Races in the two-day event were suspended immediately following the crash and later canceled for the rest of the weekend.

City police at the crash site did not immediately release the identity of the driver. Efforts by the Sun-Gazette to reach police later were unsuccessful.

Joe Hutchinson, chairman of the Susquehanna 500 race teams, gathered solemn participants and event officials following the wreck to announce that races for the rest of the weekend would not go on.

“It’s a sad situation for all of us,” he told the group. “Keep the driver in your prayers.”

Hutchinson said Mini-Indy drivers involved in accidents have sustained just minor injuries in the past.

“We’ve never had anything like this before,” he said.

The annual event, sponsored by the local chapter of the American Red Cross, features team cars sponsored by regional businesses and organizations and is the organization’s main fundraiser.

Cars are specialized stock and modified vehicles and operated by drivers representing particular teams.

Hutchinson said Alberts Spray Solutions has been represented in the competition for a number of years.

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