I don't know how many of you follow what's happening in Baja. The following is a first hand account of an incident that happened to some off road riders on 11/2/2008. It is a long story but well worth the read. It is not a representation of ALL of Baja by any means. Just a reminder that if you go there be careful.
My nephew Jimmy will be racing next weekend in the Baja 1000. I will post updates here and by email.
Friends, family, supporters, and fellow off road enthusiasts
Since the events of Nov. 2nd, I’ve been praying for the timing to give a statement regarding the facts, along with a story to give everyone a better understanding of what happened. My main goal is to give awareness to all and provide clarification of what actually happened, as well as document for not only myself but for Steve, Aaron and our families.
Typing this will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Remembering exactly what happened, step-by-step, and writing down what Aaron, Steve, and I witnessed and experienced is something that still haunts us. Please accept my apology if this is too graphic or disturbing, but the facts need to be addressed for us all. Ultimately, we are all fortunate that this will be written as a testimonial of events as opposed to an obituary. It is because of the grace of God and overall support that Steve, Aaron and I are still here. I apologize in advance for not mentioning everyone who helped Steve to safety or orchestrated any of the supports.
I’m encouraging you to take the information as it is and please do not alter it to fit what you would rather believe or be influenced to believe. This is all true facts of what we experienced. I am by no means a writer but I will do my best to keep things as simple as possible. I was compelled to write this after reading all the posts online and hearing local news reports state that this was an unfortunate hunting accident. Steve, Aaron and I have no doubts in our minds that this was no accident. Yet the three of us have no explanation for why someone would fire a rifle at close range (less than 100 feet) and then point the rifle again at another rider. We have many speculations of why this happened but I will leave it at this: we simply came across an area where we were not welcome and someone was willing to kill, even though we were on what we know as public property.
Our weekend started off by Aaron, Steve and I departing for Mexico leaving from Campo and crossing through the Tecate area. We left our vehicle at one of Aaron’s contacts in Campo and rode our bikes across the border. We spent an entire day pre running the upcoming Baja 1000 course leaving from the grade of La Rumorosa and ultimately ending up at our evening destination, Mike’s Sky Rancho. During the day we completely exhausted ourselves riding a very rough but incredibly fun course. Having some carburetor problems with the KLX loaned to me by Alba, it made my trip a bit more difficult. Aaron had his body beat to heck by the roughest track he’s been on. Needless to say, by the time we got to Mike’s Sky Rancho, Aaron was sick from a major migraine and I was miserable and grumpy from being worn out from the ride and frustrated with a bike which I hadn’t had the time to properly tune prior to the trip. Then of course, there is Steve, who doesn’t get tired or grumpy, and encourages us by reminding us he loves us…with a grin. In other words, it’s Steve’s way of saying, “You pussies ride and quit whining.”
During the night our chase guys, who didn’t skip a beat during the day, ended up having a little too much fun and come morning, they were no where to be found. As luck would have it, Chris Haines Tours was staying at Mike’s and one of their chase drivers offered to carry our bags across the border for us so we didn’t have to carry them on our bikes. Wondering if we would have enough gas to get back to Valle De Trinidad (VDT), we noticed that our bikes were mysteriously topped off with fuel. Our chase guys, who had originally planned to head home the next morning, probably realized we needed fuel, went off to have their fun, and simply forgot about a couple of bags. No big deal so we made some jokes and were on our way.
With our bikes full of fuel and our bags taken care of, we departed Mike’s after breakfast, around 8:30 Sunday morning. We rode out of Mike’s and picked up the course, following it towards VDT. On the way, Aaron, unfortunately influenced by me, pulled a wheelie on his xr650r Honda, looping it out. Laughing and slightly embarrassed, he picked up his bike and continued on without a rear fender. Once we hit VDT, we fueled up, topped off our water packs and were ready to head for home. Our plan was to ride up Hwy 3 to Ojos and catch the remaining part of the Baja 1000 course back into La Rumorosa to finish out our weekend of pre-running. With no desire to ride the course any longer we started pounding pavement. With a couple of veteran racers and an impatient young adult, that only lasted about 7-9 miles. Over the radio we all agreed that the Hwy sucked and we should ride some trails to at least have some fun heading home.
We turned off at Jamau and headed north, parallel to the highway. We knew the area rather well as it had been used in recent race events. It is also a well-traveled area by many Baja riders. We rode more or less at a slow rate of speed, admiring the scenery and doing the usual picking on each other over the race radios. Aaron led for a while, then Steve, then Aaron, and back and forth while I cruised in the back staying just slightly out of the dust. At this point we were approximately 15-17 Km from the initial turnoff. Heading north, we picked up sections of old Baja 500 and 1000 race courses, which were familiar to Steve and I. We stopped for a quick break near a small pond and continued on.
Shortly after we had stopped I rounded a corner still riding in the back and noticed that Steve’s bike was lying on the ground in front of a fence, which caught me off guard. It wasn’t a high-speed area or directly in a corner so my first reaction was Steve dropped his bike to pretend he had fallen. Not buying it since I saw no skid mark or any reason he would have crashed, I then saw Aaron drop his bike and start crawling very fast in a few strides and then he leaped over a bush. He was screaming at me, “get down!! He’s shooting at us; he’s got a gun! He’s got a gun…get down!!” It took me a couple of seconds to realize that this was not a joke. Steve appeared to be in a state of shock and was holding his chest. I immediately dropped the Kawasaki and ran to Steve. I never looked beyond the fence, which was blocked and barricaded off with brush and sticks. Steve said, “He shot me.” I stood over Steve with my back to the shooter and Aaron kept yelling, “get down get down.” I thought, if I don’t look back and make eye contact maybe he will not shoot. Steve was lying in broad day light with nowhere to hide and I was damned if I was going to let him get shot again while on the ground. Not knowing if the gunman was 10 feet or 200 yards behind me, I told Aaron we needed to get Steve out of there and get help. I didn’t know how bad he was shot but just seeing a hole in his black EVS body armor was enough to know it was serious.
If this shooter was going to shoot again he probably would have already done it. I made it a point to say loudly, “we are leaving, we are leaving!!! Don’t shoot, we are leaving.” I told Steve to get on the back of my bike but he said he couldn’t and would try to ride. He was gasping for air and groaning like I’ve never heard before. I picked up his Yamaha 450 with my back still turned away from the fence and tried kicking it over. I didn’t count the kicks but when I was about to puke from the adrenaline and kicking faster than normal… I think about 15-20 kicks, I yelled to Aaron who was scared to death to move to come kick it and help me. Aaron had seen the shooter aim the rifle directly at him and watched Steve buckle over and fall off of his bike hitting the ground. Even though he was shocked and had made eye contact with the shooter, Aaron still worked up the courage to run toward the fence and help me with the Yamaha. After Aaron tried unsuccessfully to kick several times he threw the bike down. I started the Kawasaki and coaxed Steve to get on the back and get out of there. Aaron jumped on his bike and we rode away slowly with Steve on the back still not looking back or giving any impression we were any threat. We later found out from Aaron’s GPS that from the time Aaron dropped his bike and dove for cover to the time we rode away from the fence was approx. 6 minutes.
We managed to make it approx 1.5 miles riding slow and by then we started looking over our backs to make sure we were not being followed. Steve was yelling at me, “stop, stop, stop I can’t go another foot stop and let me down.” I later found out from Steve that since I was still wearing my backpack and hydration system it was pushing on Steve’s chest making it even more unbearable. We stopped, still not knowing if we were being followed or why we were even a target. I looked at Steve’s wound and rolled him over to see if the bullet had exited his body. The wound was a small caliber size hole but I was just as worried knowing what a low caliber round will do bouncing around inside a body. Aaron used his phone to call Bi National Insurance. After a couple of failed attempts (they were not answering the phone), he called his dad, who was initially in disbelief, thinking we were kidding. Within seconds and after some reassuring choices of vocabulary, Mr. Cornicelli was all over it and remained calm, telling Aaron to provide the GPS coordinates and he would make the calls to Bi National Insurance and dispatch a helicopter.
At this point I insisted that Aaron head to the highway (an 8 mile trip) to get help. He said, “no, we need to stick together.” I told him I would go and he could stay with Steve and again, he said no. He was worried the shooter could be coming for us. Aaron made it pretty clear without busting my face that we were sticking together. Realizing we were in a situation out of our control with no way to help Steve’s condition, we began to pray over Steve. We asked for guidance and ultimately for the Lord to step in and take control. Steve, in complete agony and with no way to explain in words his pain, said, “Get me on the bike and I’ll ride.” We started the Kawasaki and helped him on, leaving some of his riding apparel still on the trail. Steve managed to get rolling on his own strength while I jumped on the back of Aaron’s Honda. Not only was Aaron’s bike missing the rear fender, but Aaron was also wearing a large backpack, which left me with about 4” of seat. But that didn’t matter as I was so focused on encouraging Steve every foot of the way. I still wonder how I didn’t slip off and get tangled in the rear wheel which looked like a saw blade calling me out!
Steve continued on, hiding the pain and convincing us that he was going to make it to the highway. About half way to the highway, Steve lifted his helmet and vomited twice. This was the second scariest part as I was not sure if Steve was truly going to make it to the highway. Without stopping we rode directly beside him ready to catch him if he fell. We could only pray while riding and watch his eyes closing and him groaning over the sound of the bike. Aaron and I were basically coaches, almost as if beside a woman in labor, coaching him to breathe and hang in there. It was clear he had either a punctured lung or some major internal injuries because he could barely breathe. He continued to vomit throughout the 10 miles of dirt roads. We realized the vomit was deep brown to almost purple in color. Knowing he was bleeding internally made the 10 miles feel like 100 miles. We knew if we kept encouraging him to continue riding a few more feet we would hit the highway, get help, and a chopper would fly him to a hospital.
Steve made it to the highway and literally collapsed from exhaustion and pain. Aaron and I helped Steve get into some shade, and then we ran onto the highway to flag down a car. The first car came into range within 4 or5 minutes, but it seemed like 45 minutes. The first 3 or 4 cars we stopped (because we were not moving off the highway) wanted no part of what was happening. They were most likely locals, had small kids and sped off. The 4th or 5th car that stopped was a lifted truck with a racing number of 500 on the rear window. They helped us by heading back into VDT to find police or an ambulance. Keep in mind that the first stop we made was to call a Medi-Vac through Bi National Insurance. Unsure if they ever received the GPS coordinates from Joe, we were afraid to move Steve in case a chopper was already en route. My fear was that we’d move him too far and miss his opportunity to be flown out.
A few minutes passed when a police truck pulled up to assist. Shortly after, a large group of military soldiers were passing by and they quickly surrounded the area. They stood around for some time while we explained where the shooting took place. We showed them the exact location on the GPS and explained that we left a bike on the scene. They had no comments, just kind of stood around. Aaron needed confirmation if the chopper was in route but had poor phone range. So, while I was trying like crazy to fill Steve with encouragement that he would make it through this, Aaron jumped in the truck with the gentlemen who went and flagged down the police. They headed north two miles where Aaron made another call to his dad to confirm where we were. Around this time even our chase guys who disappeared the night before showed up and were there to help. For them to show up at this time would have never happened had they been chasing from the time we initially headed off the highway. They helped translate for us and later went back and retrieved the bike with a police escort.
At this point I began arguing with the police when they said we need to get Steve to a clinic in VDT as there was no ambulance that could come. I told him forget it, a chopper was coming and I would not move him again until the chopper landed and he was on his way to a hospital. At this point the police man grabbed Steve’s hand and felt his pulse and vitals. He then put Steve’s hand in mine and said, “Feel how cold amigo? He will not make it if we don’t go now!” Without a further word or thought I picked Steve up and we carried him to the back of the police pickup truck. We rushed south to VDT. I was praying someone would see us or find Aaron and let him know we were going to the clinic. At this point Steve was really gasping for air and I was pleading with him to take short breaths. I figured he had multiple broken ribs and maybe a punctured lung. As we entered VDT I saw directly across the street some Americans and a lifted truck with Team SRD on the window. I knew that truck belonged to a friend, Justin, and started calling his name. The sirens were blasting over my shouts and I was on my knees holding Steve’s head, keeping him from getting a concussion while the police truck hit every possible pothole! I yelled a few times for Justin but never saw him. Just some racers and chase crews looking and trying to figure out what was happening.
Fortunately, I caught the attention of probably the best people to have around in a situation like this. Cameron Steele’s wife, Heidi, along with one of their Desert Assassin (DA) crew guys, Cody. They saw my name on my jersey and sent someone to see what was going on. DA’s guy, Poncho, arrived at the small clinic in VDT and immediately learned that this was a life or death situation for Steve. Within minutes, Steve was hooked up to an IV and oxygen and the doctor was checking his vitals. Steve was in bad shape as his blood pressure was dropping and things were way more than could be taken care of in this small clinic.
Cameron and his entire crew of friends and racers were there almost immediately after Poncho radioed them, like an army of soldiers ready to come and fight for us. Cameron immediately contacted Oscar Ramos, Score’s attorney. Oscar began searching for the quickest source of air support. Steve was in horrible pain and was asking me over and over “where the fuck is the helicopter.” I told him over an over it was on the way and he was going to make it. Poncho and I took turns holding the oxygen mask on him and encouraging him to fight. Cameron and his guys were all outside contacting everyone they could and getting the word out about what had happened.
I remember Cameron coming into the small room and telling Steve, “You’re going to make it Steve, a chopper is coming.” Without looking up, Steve knew who was there speaking and it gave him that much more comfort knowing the word was out, support was there, and help was coming.
Aaron made it to the clinic by simply following the commotion and expressed that he had contacted several sources for air support. At one point I know a small plane from S.D. was ready to depart, and the No Fear helicopter was ready to go, just waiting for a location or a medic. It seemed like anyone who knew someone with a plane or helicopter was contacted and getting ready to come for the rescue. Steve continued fighting while we finally got confirmation that a police chopper was en route from Ensenada and would be here in 40 minutes. This would be the quickest form of transportation. I kept telling Steve, “5 more minutes” and was pissing him off so he would fight minute by minute. The clinic was unable to give Steve anything for pain other than hooking up an IV and providing oxygen. Once the chopper was close to arriving an ambulance finally showed up, which I believe came from up North by Ojos Negros. Once the medics had prepared Steve for flight, Cameron and crew gave Aaron and I a change of clothes, and insisted that we get out of our riding gear and prepare for a long night.
The police chopper finally arrived, close to 2 hours from the time we made it to the clinic. This was a very small police chopper, primarily used for patrolling locally in Ensenada, and wasn’t prepared for longer flights. When it arrived they had to pull fuel cans from inside the back seat area of the chopper and refuel. One of the DA guys was helping by the old school way of sucking through a tube to expedite the process. After a face and mouth full of fuel he definitely got things going. These guys are absolutely on top of things and would take any risks necessary to get Steve up in the air. The chopper had barely enough room for a pilot, co-pilot and medic, let alone Steve. Steve was strapped to a board with a blanket over him and duct-taped, almost resembling a mummy. Once loaded, he was literally sticking out both sides of the chopper. It was more than I could stomach and I couldn’t watch as he flew away. I knew his pain was intense and the amount of blood he had lost would play a huge factor in whether he made the flight. Once up in the air we all cheered with joy knowing he was at least heading for the best hospital available in Baja, the Angelos Hospital in T.J.
At this point Aaron and I were still in shock from the events. Our bikes and gear were loaded up on the DA’s caravan, but they needed to drive south to pick up a truck / trailer before heading up towards Mexicali. Aaron’s dad was planning to pick us up from Mexicali and take us back to my truck and then I would drive to T.J.
I realized it would take several additional hours to see Steve again if I went with the DA guys, even though I had promised him and Jody that I would not let him die or leave his side. Close to 40 minutes after the chopper left Trinidad I was riding with Cameron, his dad (Big Daddy), Heidi, and their family dog – Booger. I’m sure Booger sensed my concern because he rested his head on my lap giving me a sense of ease. I heard Cam mention it sounded like the chopper had made it and landed. I was relieved but still a mess not knowing Steve’s condition, so I tried my best to relax and just pray to myself. Close to 20 minutes later, still heading south towards San Felipe, Cameron talked to Oscar and confirmed the chopper hit a storm going into TJ and had not landed yet, but was circling around until things cleared. At this point I was pretty much jumping out of the truck and was determined to find a way to travel to TJ by hitch hiking. Cameron calmed me down and arranged for another chase truck heading to Ensenada to give me a ride. I jumped out and Cameron stopped me to give me some extra cash in case of emergency. I hopped in a passing truck and said, “take me to the truck waiting to take me to Ensenada.” Unfortunately for Cameron and his crew I jumped in the wrong truck. But fortunately for me I got in a truck with great people who were horrified to hear my story, and they took me toward Ensenada. I wouldn’t find out until later that night that I jumped in the wrong truck and gave Cameron and his crew a scare that I had disappeared!
Aaron stayed with Cam’s group and encouraged them to continue on, as he was sure I would make my way to Steve and his family. Fortunately Aaron was riding in another vehicle, otherwise he would have knocked me out and kept me safe with Cameron and the DA guys. Aaron thinks things through and knew the best thing was to stick with safety and get across the border and then come back later since family was at the hospital and Steve was in good hands. I had other thoughts…since I heard over the radio that Steve was still floating around in the air with his face literally getting beat by a storm; I pretty much acted on impulse.
To sum it up, some incredible dudes from Callaway racing managed to get me to one of their friends in Ensenada, who goes by Baja Dan. Once in Ensenada he called the hospital for me and even got Steve’s wife on the phone. Jody let me know that not only did Steve make it to the hospital alive but that he had already undergone surgery and all went extremely well. Steve’s family was at the Hospital before the helicopter even arrived. Finally, Steve was in good hands.
Steve had an exploded spleen (which was removed), a tear in his liver and damage to his intestine and colon, but his major organs were OK. He lost more than 50% of his blood and doctors said if he had taken an ambulance from VDT to even Ensenada, he would have died half way through the trip. The TJ hospital was incredible and the surgeon that performed the surgery was top notch. Talk about a ton of weight lifted off my heart. The amount of joy was unexplainable.
The Callaway race team guys planned to stay in Ensenada that night, but promised to get me to a taxi or bus, or drive me to TJ themselves. Before even seeing a taxi, I noticed a truck full of bikes pulling out and immediately jumped out and asked where they were heading. They said Rosarito and I said awesome, I’m coming with you guys. Without any issues, these complete strangers who live in Rosarito agreed to help me get to Rosarito. I explained the situation to the guy sitting next to me in the back seat and he couldn’t believe what he had heard. To my amazement he scrolled his 2-way to Oscar Ramos who was already at the hospital and let him know he was bringing me to the hospital. It was crazy that I ran into someone who not only agreed to take me directly to the TJ hospital, but he had contacted the very same Oscar who had pulled the right strings to get the chopper down to VDT. It turns out I was in great hands since the guy I was sitting next to is a race promoter in Mexico and runs a Motocross track in Rosarito. We were pulled over by the Policia a mile or so out of Ensenada and I thought, “great.. what are the odds.” However the police just talked to the driver for a minute about a license plate issue and then let him go. I actually thought things could get ugly, and yep, I started praying to myself again. A quick stop in Rosarito to unload the bikes and the gentlemen then drove like Mario Andretti on the back roads to TJ and literally took me straight up to the waiting room.
With all that said, I made it to the hospital and met up with the Martz family in the waiting room. Seeing the looks on the faces of Steve’s parents and Jody, I knew that Steve was doing much better than when I had last seen him. Completely spent with exhaustion but overwhelmed with joy, I made it to see Steve not only alive but drugged up and out of pain. He then told me more details about the shooting. He actually saw the shooter very clearly, and remembered everything and every second of agony. He said he was in so much pain on the one-hour helicopter ride that he was cursing God and asking to end this misery. I assured him God had other plans and ultimately even controlled his thoughts. I truly think the Lord just allowed Steve to seek and recognize God even being involved and ultimately the one calling the shots.
After a quick visit with Steve I stayed the evening in the waiting room eager to see his progress the next morning. Jody and I talked for hours, until the sun rose, about how strong Steve was and how Aaron and I managed to find ways to keep him encouraged as we knew he was going to still be a damn good father and husband and hard-headed pain in the rear!
Aaron was traumatized by the day’s events and once I spoke with his family and knew he made it back across the border safe it was just another big sigh of relief. He ranted on and on about how the DA guys hooked him up and took extra care of him. From clothes to dinner and even offering to pay the tolls, the DA’s refused to let him pay for anything.
Monday was a blur after a sleepless night. We had a few visits and meetings with the District Attorney’s from TJ & Ensenada, but we simply just wanted Steve back home in the U.S. We prayed around lunch time for an open door to get Steve back to the U.S. Just before dark the answer came that he was stable enough to be transported. Within minutes Sharp Health Care dispatched Mercy Air to land on the roof of the Angelos Hospital. I snuck in to let Steve know the chopper was on its way to take him across the border to Sharp… I think I said “just 5 minutes buddy” and if he could have gotten up I think he would have beat me to death! But not Steve, he smirked and said, “Ya, right…heard that before!” After some insurance drama and billing, the Martz family came to an agreement with the hospital’s payment requirements, squared up, and we all went outside to watch the chopper light up and take Steve to the U.S.
Once the chopper fired up shortly after nightfall it was as if we all held our breath and as it flew away and disappeared behind the building we all let out a big sigh of overwhelming joy. At that point I fell apart and finally realized Steve was going to be OK. Jody was falling apart with joy and I couldn’t even look at her through the tears. Steve’s mom and dad, and several of his friends and I were all more than ready to jump in the vehicles and head for the border. Steve made it back to a S.D. hospital and was in great hands once again. His recovery has been going extremely well and he is expected to be home within 6-8 days if he continues at the rate he’s going.
Steve’s a fighter and is already eager to get home and tell his story. The Martz family has requested minimal, family-only visiting to give Steve the rest he needs. He wants so much to see everyone, entertain, and tell the stories, but it is just too much for now. We are planning a welcome home celebration and will keep everyone informed.
On behalf of the Martz family, Aaron and myself, we really want to encourage everyone to understand what Steve went through and how he suffered while simply enjoying what he loves the most. He has told me more than once throughout our friendship and racing career that if he died he would want to be doing what he loves, which is racing or having the time of his life racing anything with a motor for that fact. Steve was clinging to his life over something as random as a gunshot wound, in a familiar area we have traveled before. And for an unknown man, wearing hunting camo’s and directly shooting one of the nicest guys in the world, over what? That’s our confusion and this wasn’t Steve’s time to go. We are fortunate the gun was only fired once and that we all made it out without another shot fired. We are thankful we are alive, but we also want to make all of our friends in the off road industry aware of the fact that we had no doubt in our minds that we were not going to be effected by any violence in Mexico, only to be caught off guard with this life changing experience. I pray for anyone still going down to Mexico to understand what happened and to seriously think about what they could get themselves into.
(Aaron’s Take) After leading for sometime, Steve passed me. I came around a corner and saw a gate up ahead and recall saying to myself, “That gate looks odd, oh well we will have a look when we all get there.” As I continued on toward the gate, I noticed Steve had stopped about 20 feet from the gate and was straddling his bike. Still riding toward Steve, I saw him start to fall over as if he went to put his foot down but the ground was not there. At first I was like, what is he doing, until I heard him say, “He shot me!” That was when I looked up and to the right of the gate and I saw a rather large bush and a man dressed in camouflage gear turning to aim a rifle at me. I must have been 10 feet from Steve, still rolling, when I saw this and all I could do was jump off my bike screaming, “No, no, no…what are you doing?....Don’t shoot.” All the while trying to delete the shooters line of sight from me. As I jumped behind a bush, I saw Dan coming around the corner and I was extremely concerned that he would be shot next. Unable to warn him via the radios, I began yelling, “he’s got a gun, get down.” I remember being baffled by Dan as he rode right up to Steve as if no shooter was going to stop him. Then all of a sudden, it seemed to sink in that Steve had been shot and I was terrified.
All of a sudden Dan stood up (never looking towards the shooter) saying, “We are leaving!” At that point, Dan turned his bike around and got it started. He picked up Steve’s Yamaha and began trying to kick start it. I remember being so terrified that I was extremely hesitant to go over and get my bike. With great encouragement from Dan, I ran over and grabbed my XR and began kicking it until it started. Once my bike was started, Dan yelled at me to come over and try to get Steve’s bike started. After about 20 kicks from me, I looked at Dan and he said, “Leave it!” I dropped it and hopped on my bike riding side by side with Dan and Steve. We rode 1.5 miles away from the scene and Steve yelled to pull over. I told Dan to get my phone. The first number I dialed was Bi-National Emergency….Ring…Ring….Ring….no one answered. My next call was to my dad to have him start making arrangements. I gave him the GPS points and told him to hurry. After getting off the phone, Dan told me to head to the highway for help. I told him NO as I was not coming back to find them both dead. He said he would go and I could stay but I refused. At this point I was concerned for all of us and we really did not know who shot and why. I told Dan that we were all leaving together as a team. We gave Steve the option to ride by himself or with one of us. He decided to ride by himself. From here on, Dan’s report explains the rest and I agree 100% with everything he has written as I was there and witnessed this entire thing. November 2, 2008, was a horrible day and it is simply because of the grace of God that Steve, Dan and I are alive. It is clear to me that God has other plans for us and that is why we are so blessed to be home, safe and sound, with only a wounded friend and a story to tell.
I hope Score can redirect their attention to this matter and simply warn competitors, letting them know that this was no hunting accident and could have been much, much worse. We were extremely lucky for the most part. After reading just some of the events, ask your self if it is worth it? As of this past weekend we were not scheduled to compete in this 1000, but our sole intention was to pre-run sections of the course and make ourselves available to compete if another team needed a last minute rider. We were not on the course and were several miles from the course on our way back home, but ultimately were riding in a very common area where we would have never questioned our safety; until now. Sal Fish spoke with me in the TJ hospital and both Sal and Oscar Ramos were very accommodating and heartfelt about the situation and expressed their deepest concerns. However, as of this weekend, about a week after Steve was shot, I have not heard of any attempts from Score to check on Steve’s condition. I’m bothered by that, knowing not only was Steve a licensed top Baja racer for many years, but also competed in several classes including 7S, Class 22 pro motorcycles, and premier class 1 cars. Our team finished last year’s season with a 3rd place in points championship followed by a 4th place finish (class 22) in last year’s 40th anniversary Baja 1000.
In my humble opinion I am disappointed by the conduct and overall attitude of Score, primarily for two reasons: the fact that I feel the organization has not yet released facts or made efforts to speak with the Martz family, or publicly announced that this was not an accident. We were not scheduled for this race but we left the opportunity available. I hope to see something even as brief as a warning for the racers and general race fans to be extremely careful since this past week’s incident could happen again and could be more than a “hunting accident.”
Steve, Aaron and I absolutely loved riding and competing in Baja, along with coordinating several hosted tour rides, and are saddened to step back from a once such rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle. We truly will miss it and hope things can change soon. As recognized (I hope) Score professional racers, I can only hope this story can build awareness for all racers’ safety in the next Baja 1000 and future races. I personally won’t be back since I was directly affected in many ways. I think competitors will always compete knowing the danger is there, but being honest with the facts does go a long way with a community of racers.
Moral of the story: Several heroes worked on saving the life of a fellow racer and he was ultimately saved by the grace of God and His involvement the entire time. This story will be closure to us and our families, knowing that we have set the facts straight and will no longer need to explain the same story over an over. Again, none of us are angry with Score knowing that this was out of their hands and ultimately not race course related, but we feel the public needs to know the truth and if it can happen in the area of VDT, it could happen anywhere. Be careful and race safe! The off road community is a brotherhood and watching racers go out of their way to do anything for us is just another reason the sport is what it is. Currently, as of 10 days from the incident, Steve is still in excruciating pain following another emergency surgery on Monday evening. Doctors discovered another hole in the stomach interior which was causing infection and severe pain. Steve is still in ICU and struggling with the recovery process.
Steve told me he is at peace and has forgiven the unidentified individual for shooting him. He made it clear from the day after the shooting he was not going to pursue or press charges and is comfortable with his decision.
Dan Walsh, Aaron Cooper and Steve Martz