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Members of a fledgling car club were lined up 18 months ago and leaving a St. Mary’s dragstrip, with one of that night’s racers leading the procession, when a car suddenly began passing them.

David N. Smith of Clinton saw the car go by him, and moments later found his friend Richard Arland Jackson lying on the ground that night in October of 2010, at the exit road of Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek.

“I just saw him letting out heavy breaths,” Smith testified Monday in a St. Mary’s courtroom. “His right hand was twitching a little bit. That was it. We told him to hold on, the ambulance was coming.”

Jackson, a 20-year-old Bowie resident, died at St. Mary’s Hospital. St. Mary’s grand jurors later indicted Jarron Alonzo Jennings, 19, of Glenn Dale on a charge of vehicular manslaughter, and he appeared Monday in St. Mary’s Circuit Court for the start of a trial scheduled to continue through the week.

State police said at the time of the incident that Jackson might have experienced problems with his own car while leaving MIR, and was standing on the business’ access road shortly before 10:30 p.m. when he was struck by a 2001 Chevrolet Impala driven by Jennings.

Smith testified that the car passing him and the half-dozen other vehicles in his group was “screaming” by at about 60 mph, and that its tires “were kicking up dirt” as it went off the road into the grass and wound up on its side by a line of trees. Jackson had been leading the car club members out of the venue.

Jennings was not injured, police report, but two passengers with him were taken to area hospitals.

In the first day of the trial, Margaret Jackson’s hand trembled as she held a photograph of her son and testified about a predawn visit to her Bowie home that notified her of his death. “Police officers came to my door,” she said. “I couldn’t get to see him until a couple of days later, at the funeral home.”

Dr. Donna Vincenti of the state medical examiner’s office testified Tuesday morning that Richard Jackson suffered head injuries, cracked ribs, a torn aorta and “two tears in the heart itself.”

Smith testified Monday that motorists can’t drive fast on the raceway’s exit road.

“That’s not something that’s going to work for you,” he said, adding that his friend’s death “could have been avoided if everyone had stayed in line, and Mr. Jennings had not speeded.”

The manslaughter offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

jwharton@somdnews.com