South Dakota authorities count four traffic deaths associated with this year's Sturgis motorcycle rally, but the actual number is at least nine, with identities ranging from an ex-con to a school lunch lady.
In the official count of rally traffic fatalities, the South Dakota Highway Patrol includes only those that happen within western South Dakota from the first Saturday morning of the rally through the final Sunday morning of the rally.
The patrol does not count traffic deaths that happen in eastern South Dakota or outside of the state, or outside of the designated nine-day period, even when it’s known or suspected that the people involved in those accidents were traveling to or from the rally.
“That way we keep our numbers consistent,” said Tony Mangan, a spokesman for the patrol.
Mangan said it’s sometimes difficult or impossible for the patrol to determine whether a person was headed to or from the rally when an accident occurs just prior to the rally, just after the rally, or in eastern South Dakota or a different state.
But he also acknowledged that there are deaths beyond those counted by the patrol that can likely be associated with the rally.
This year, the Rapid City Journal has counted nine deaths associated with the rally, including the four counted by state authorities and five additional deaths that happened either just before the rally or outside the state.
Journal archives indicate eight rally-associated traffic deaths in 2017, 10 in 2016, 16 in 2015, four in 2014 and six in 2013. A Journal analysis published during the 2013 rally found 141 traffic deaths associated with the rally from 1994 through 2012.
Among this year’s rally-related traffic deaths, authorities said two resulted from a motorcyclist running a stop sign; two resulted from motorcyclists pulling over near the side of a highway and being struck by a pickup; one resulted from the driver of a vehicle pulling in front of a trike-style motorcycle; and the other four resulted from three motorcycle drivers and one UTV driver failing to negotiate curves in a road.
One of the people killed was from South Dakota, seven were from other states, and one was from Canada.
Mangan said alcohol is under investigation as a factor in some of the accidents, but he declined to say which ones, citing the ongoing nature of the investigations. The Highway Patrol noted in every instance whether the person killed was wearing a helmet, but did not say whether the use or lack of a helmet was a determining factor in the person’s death.
Deaths 1 and 2
This year’s first unofficially rally-related fatal crashes happened Aug. 2, prior to the period in which the South Dakota Highway Patrol began its count.
That morning, according to the Utah Highway Patrol, Ingreborg Treitinger, 62, of Los Angeles, and Brigit Stein, 50, of Germany, were killed in southern Utah when a pickup truck collided with a group of motorcyclists traveling from California to Sturgis for the rally.
The patrol said it happened after a rider realized he forgot a bag at a McDonald’s near Kanab, Utah, and stopped to tell other group members he was turning back. Some of the motorcycles stopped in the travel lane, and the driver of the pickup did not see them in time.
Besides Treitinger, who died at the scene, and Stein, who died later at a hospital, the patrol said at least two other people in the group were struck but survived.
Richard Cusato, of Los Angeles, said in a phone interview with the Journal that Stein is survived by a husband who was in the group of riders.
“She was like the life of the party,” Cusato said. “These were very good, honest, considerate people. They lived the life — they were pretty much riders who toured all over the country all the time.”
Cusato said he did not know Treitinger.
Deaths 3 and 4
Later that same day, Aug. 2, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol, James Bradley, 54, and Deanna Bradley, 45, of Parker, Ariz., were westbound on Highway 1416 in Box Elder when they failed to obey the stop sign at the intersection with South Ellsworth Road, and they hit the side of a semi truck. Although the patrol noted that both of the Bradleys were wearing helmets, they were pronounced dead at the scene.
Persistent rumors have circulated that the truck driver was assaulted at the scene; some media outlets reported that there was an assault, either with no attribution for the report or with attribution to the Highway Patrol. Mangan, of the Highway Patrol, declined to comment on the matter and said he did not confirm the rumor for any media outlets. He said the Highway Patrol only investigated the crash, and any assault — if there was an assault — would have been investigated by the Box Elder Police Department. The chief of the department did not return a message from the Rapid City Journal.
The Journal has since learned that James Bradley was a Hells Angel and general contractor who was convicted in 2013 of engaging in gang activity, and of criminally threatening subcontractors with retaliation from fellow Hells Angels. He was sentenced to time already served and probation, under conditions that included disassociating from the Hells Angels.
Because the Bradleys died two days before the South Dakota Highway Patrol began its official period for counting rally-related deaths, their deaths are not included in the patrol’s tally.
On Aug. 4, three people died in a span of about six hours in three separate rally-related wrecks.
In one of those wrecks, 54-year-old Nancy Robison (incorrectly spelled as “Robinson” in some early media reports), of Bloomfield, Ind., was driving a trike-style motorcycle east on U.S. Highway 212 at about 2 p.m. in the area of Hulett, Wyo.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol said a westbound SUV was waiting to make a left turn and pulled in front of Robison’s trike, resulting in a collision. Robison died at the scene, and the patrol noted that she was not wearing a helmet.
Her obituary said she was best known as a retired lunch lady at Eastern Greene School in Indiana, where she also drove a school bus. The obituary said her first husband had died in an auto accident and she had since found her “second soulmate.” She leaves that second soulmate behind, along with two daughters, three grandchildren, seven siblings and other relatives.
Robison’s death is not included in the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s official rally tally, because her crash happened in Wyoming.
Also Aug. 4, at 2:32 p.m., the South Dakota Highway Patrol said James Barbier, 56, of Aurora, Colo., was 14 miles south of Cheyenne Crossing near milepost 5 on U.S. Highway 85 when he failed to negotiate a curve.
His motorcycle went off the road, into the west ditch and through a fence.
He was pronounced dead at the scene, and the patrol noted that he was not wearing a helmet.
In another Aug. 4 crash, at 7:42 p.m., Craig Carrell, 53, of Sioux City, was in a side-by-side UTV on Maitland Road about 3 miles west of Deadwood when he failed to negotiate a curve, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
The vehicle rolled onto its passenger side, injuring Carrell, who died en route to a hospital. A male passenger, 51, suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries. The patrol said both were wearing seat belts, but not helmets.
Carrell was a co-founder of Ideal Wheels, a used-vehicle dealership in Sioux City, according to a post on the dealership’s Facebook page.
“Buying and selling cars was Craig’s passion and providing a fun and friendly place for customers was his nature,” the post said.
His obituary said he was involved in numerous other business ventures, was active in Sioux City community groups, and had a vacation home in Deadwood. He is survived by two sons, his parents, a sister, a brother and other relatives.
At 11:20 a.m. Tuesday on Sturgis Road (aka the I-90 service road), near mile marker 44, about 1.5 miles west of Piedmont, Loren Todd, 63, of Alexandria, was eastbound on a motorcycle when he failed to negotiate a curve, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
The motorcycle went off the road and into the north ditch, hit an orange traffic pole and eventually rolled. Todd was thrown from the motorcycle and was pronounced dead en route to the hospital.
The Highway Patrol, which released Todd's name Friday, noted that he was not wearing a helmet.
At 6:24 p.m. Wednesday, on Sturgis Road about 1 mile west of Black Hawk, Eric Olson, 39, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was westbound on a motorcycle approaching the intersection with Kimberly Drive when he failed to negotiate a curve in the road, according to the Highway Patrol.
The motorcycle went off the road, into the north ditch and down an embankment through a fence. Olson was pronounced dead at the scene. The Highway Patrol, which released Olson's name Saturday, said he was not wearing a helmet.