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Law enforcement officers have had to cope with more deaths than usual at the Sturgis rally this year.

Tom Wilkes, chief deputy with Meade County Sheriff's Department, said Saturday there have been an unusually high number of deaths at campgrounds and other places related to the rally.

"It’s just been that type of year," Wilkes said. "Generally we will have one or two, but we have had more this year."

Wilkes said authorities could not yet release any names or details because they are still in the process of notifying family members.

Law enforcement officers have also given out more than 600 more warnings than last year and nearly 300 more citations at this year's Sturgis motorcycle rally so far.

In addition, there have been slightly more drug arrests and injury accidents, but two fewer fatalities have been reported compared to last year.

Six drug arrests were made Friday through early Saturday morning, including one after seven pounds of marijuana were found in a duffel bag in a Washington couple's car. 

A Washington man was stopped in Sturgis for equipment and moving violations. Police said numerous signs of criminal activity were observed and he smelled of alcohol. The man admitted he had an open container, and a search of the vehicle revealed personal use marijuana and a duffel bag with seven pounds of marijuana.

The driver and female passenger, also from Washington, were arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana, police said. The driver’s name is not being released pending further investigation.

A Yuba City, Calif., man driving a pickup was stopped near Whitewood for equipment and moving violations, police said. The driver admitted there was marijuana in the vehicle. A search revealed marijuana, six grams of hash, and drug paraphernalia. The driver was arrested and charged accordingly, police said.

A Wilseyville, Calif., man was stopped in Sturgis for equipment violations. There was an odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, police reported. A search revealed 3.1 ounces of marijuana and 3.7 grams of hash. The driver and his female passenger were arrested and charged.

A Norwalk, Conn., man was found with a gram of psychedelic mushrooms, ecstasy, pills and drug paraphernalia, according to police. He was driving a motorcycle and was stopped in Deadwood for an equipment violation. He was arrested for DUI, and a search revealed the drugs, police said. The motorcycle was seized and is pending forfeiture.

A California woman with medical marijuana was charged and police placed a hold for possible seizure of her car after they said they smelled marijuana during a traffic stop.

The woman from Placerville, Calif., was driving a Jeep two miles from Sturgis, and was stopped by police for a moving violation, police said. The driver and a female passenger from Sacramento, Calif., admitted to possessing medical marijuana. The passenger was cited for drug paraphernalia and released. The driver was arrested and will be charged, police said. A hold was placed on the vehicle with possible seizure pending.

A Dickinson, N.D., man, driving a pickup was stopped east of Sturgis for speeding. Signs of possible stimulant use were observed. The driver admitted to illegally possessing a concealed weapon. A search also revealed two grams of methamphetamine and a small amount of drug paraphernalia. The driver was arrested and will be charged, police said. The vehicle was seized pending forfeiture.

Four injury crashes that occurred from Friday morning to early Saturday were reported by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

A 1984 Chevrolet S10 pickup driven by a 17-year-old from Spearfish was traveling south on a public-access road off Susie Peak Road. He lost control on a curve and the vehicle rolled. The 17-year-old and a passenger, another juvenile from Riverton, Wyo., were not ejected from the vehicle while it rolled and remained in the pickup; neither were wearing seat belts. Both were treated for minor injuries. Both were cited for not wearing seat belts. 

A 2003 Harley Davidson driven by Harry Wenick, 76, from Washougal, Wash., was traveling southbound on Avalanche Road in Sturgis with a group of other motorcycles. Wenick was the last rider in the group. He wanted to make a left turn onto Lazelle Street, accelerated to get through the intersection and as the light turned red, he lost control of his motorcycle and it overturned. Wenick suffered minor injuries. He was not wearing a helmet. Wenick was cited for failure to stop at a red light.

Willy Oster, 37, from Apple Valley, Minn., was traveling southbound on Vanocker Canyon Road in a 2006 BMW M5, 10 miles south of Sturgis. He failed to negotiate a curve and went off the roadway. Oster overcorrected the steering, which made the BMW go into a yaw swerve. It vaulted over a field approach, landed in a ditch and then collided with several trees. Oster was flown to Rapid City Regional Hospital with serious non-life threatening injuries. Alcohol, speed and not wearing a seat belt were all factors in the crash. A DUI charge is pending. 

A 2007 Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by Dayton Frank Garrett, 57, from Fort Collins, Colo., was traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 14A, three miles west of Lead. Garrett was traveling around a curve too fast and drove onto the eastbound shoulder. He lost control and entered the eastbound ditch. Garrett's motorcycle vaulted over a five-foot deep embankment and landed on the bottom of the embankment which threw him from the motorcycle. Garrett came to rest about 25 feet from his motorcycle. He was taken to Lead-Deadwood Regional Hospital with serious non-life threatening injuries. A careless driving charge is pending. Garrett was wearing a helmet. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office assisted.

Regional Health reports that from 7 a.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, its hospitals handled the following number of rally-related emergency room visits:

Custer Regional Hospital: 3

Lead-Deadwood Regional Hospital: 6

Rapid City Regional Hospital: 8

Spearfish Regional Hospital: 11

Sturgis Regional Hospital: 21

As of 7 a.m. Saturday, Regional Health’s hospitals had the following number of rally-related inpatients in the past 24 hours:

Custer Regional Hospital: 1

Lead-Deadwood Regional Hospital: 1

Rapid City Regional Hospital: 20

Spearfish Regional Hospital: 0

Sturgis Regional Hospital: 0

Below are the total law enforcement statistics for the rally up to Saturday morning:

Item | Sturgis | Rapid City | Total | Last Year to Date

DUI Arrests: 199, 32, 231, 226

Misd Drug Arrests: 134, 57, 191, 160

Felony Drug Arrests: 30, 20, 50, 34

Other Felony Arrests: 5, 1, 6, 2

Total Citations: 843, 506, 1349, 1061

Total Warnings: 3113, 1265, 4378, 3767

Cash Seized: $0, $11,900, $11,900, $9,368

Concealed Weap. Arrests: 2, 1, 3, 0

Vehicles Seized: 8, 0, 8, 7

For Drug Poss.: 8, 0, 8, 7

Non-Injury Accidents: 9, 21, 30, 44

Injury Accidents: 31, 30, 61, 45

Fatal Accidents: 2, 4, 6, 7

Fatalities: 2, 4, 6, 8

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Contact Jennifer Naylor Gesick at 394-8415 or jennifer.naylorgesick@rapidcityjournal.com.

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