Witness: Death at mud bog in Exmore was 'freak accident'

13News Now Arrianee LeBeau has the story

EXMORE, Va. -- Rick Ulerick didn't make a living from photographing monster trucks, but he lived for it.

“He was probably the biggest ambassador to mud racing and mega-truck racing," said Geoff Charvat, a driver and West Ocean City resident. “He did it for the love of it. He did these pictures and stuff for the love of what he does.”

Ulerick was a fixture on the sidelines at events across the mid-Atlantic and upper South, according to friends in the tight-knit truck-racing community. That's where he was Saturday when he died.

Virginia State Police identified Ulerick as the victim Sunday afternoon of the deadly incident, which took place during one of the final races at the annual Muddin' at the Moose truck event in Exmore.

On Facebook and Instagram, condolences poured in from friends and fans of his work throughout the Easter Sunday holiday.

Ulerick, 48, made his home in Virginia Beach but traveled far and wide to shoot photos of oversize trucks in the shop and on the track. Although he was nearly two decades Ulerick's senior, photographer Bruce Massey looked up to his colleague as a mentor.

“He wanted that perfect shot to give to people, give it back," Massey said. “He was perfect for the sport. He did more than some of the actual track owners and promoters. He just wanted this sport to grow.”

Massey said he was a few dozen yards from Ulerick when he died. Both were setting up to shoot the finish on the "hill and hole" track, a pair of alternating short hills and mud sloughs. The first truck across the finish line wins. The race is usually over in 5-7 seconds.

The Muddin' at the Moose event, so named because of the local Moose Lodge's sponsorship, had been on hiatus for about two decades before it was revived in 2014. It features two courses: the "hill and hole" and a flat bog. The tracks are 200 feet long and 30 feet wide.

As Massey recalls, Ulerick had been shooting from the middle of the track, wearing his mud-spattered yellow jacket.

There was no communication between the two men at the time, but Ulerick's intentions were clear to his veteran colleague. Massey said he was trying to capture the sport's signature image: an airborne monster truck, flinging mud every which way.

Ulerick was known for taking chances, leaning over the railing as far as possible to get just the right shot, Massey said. Track owners gave him free rein to shoot wherever he wanted.

This time, instead of continuing straight down the track, one of the trucks drifted to its left while in the air, witnesses told Delmarvanow.com. Ulerick couldn't get out of the way fast enough.

As Massey saw it, reflecting a day later through bouts of tears, no one was to blame. What happened was a "freak accident," he said.

A representative for the Moose Lodge declined to comment Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ulerick was being mourned as a towering presence in a sport of giant trucks. He didn't shoot for any publications, but his photographs still reached a wide audience through his social media accounts, friends said.

“Rick’s known for getting that action shot," Charvat said. “He was the most genuine person I’ve ever seen.”

delmarvanow.com


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