At least 11 die in motorcycle accidents before and during Sturgis rally

By: - August 14, 2023 2:29 pm
South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Jordan Melius stops a motorcyclist during the 2023 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. (Courtesy of South Dakota Highway Patrol)

South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Jordan Melius stops a motorcyclist during the 2023 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. (Courtesy of South Dakota Highway Patrol)

Three more people died in motorcycle crashes over the weekend as the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally ended, bringing the total number of traffic deaths officially and unofficially connected with this year’s rally to at least 11.

The rally began Aug. 4 and ended Sunday. Traffic counters recorded roughly 458,000 vehicles in Sturgis, which was down about 8% from the previous five-year average. 

Latest deaths

The latest death happened Sunday afternoon when a Harley Davidson three-wheeled “trike” was traveling south on Neck Yoke Road in Pennington County and left the road for an unknown reason, according to the Highway Patrol. The trike hit the ditch and went airborne. The 66-year-old female passenger was separated from the trike and suffered fatal injuries. The 78-year-old male driver, who was not thrown from the trike, suffered minor injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet.

The Highway Patrol did not officially associate that death with the rally, because the agency’s cutoff for its annual Rally Daily Information report was 6 a.m. Sunday, just hours before the accident. The agency also excludes accidents outside western South Dakota; thus, the Patrol’s official count of rally traffic deaths is only five.

Meanwhile, the two recent fatal accidents that were included in the rally report happened Friday evening, the Highway Patrol said.

A Harley Davidson was traveling west on U.S. Highway 14 when it left the road, entered the ditch and tipped over. The 73-year-old male driver was separated from the motorcycle and was not wearing a helmet. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other accident happened at a rural intersection about 15 miles west of Rapid City. A 2014 Harley Davidson was traveling north when the driver tried to brake for a deer, locked up the brakes and left the road. The 62-year-old male driver, who was not wearing a helmet, was separated from the motorcycle and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Earlier deaths

The other three deaths officially associated with the rally happened on:

  • Aug. 10, when a 61-year-old male motorcycle driver went the wrong way on Interstate 90 and collided head-on with an SUV
  • Aug. 6, when a 54-year-old female motorcycle passenger was pronounced dead at the scene of a multi-vehicle collision, and a 41-year-old male motorcycle driver was pronounced dead at the scene after he failed to negotiate a curve and tumbled into a ditch.

At least five more people on motorcycles were killed in the days before the Highway Patrol’s Rally Daily Information reporting began: 

More crimes and stats

The Highway Patrol reported one officer-involved shooting during the rally, in which one person was injured. That shooting is under investigation by the state Division of Criminal Investigation.

U.S. Attorney Alison Ramsdell announced during the rally that the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Ellsworth Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Rapid City Police Department conducted a joint sex-trafficking operation. It resulted in five men, all from Rapid City or Box Elder, being arrested and charged for attempted sexual exploitation of a minor or attempted enticement of a minor using the internet.

The Highway Patrol also reported these final 2023 rally statistics:

  • Drunken-driving arrests: 120 (down from 148 last year).
  • Drug arrests: 401 (up from 251 last year).
  • Total citations: 1,479 (up from 1,430 last year).
  • Total warnings: 4,296 (down from 5,288 last year).
  • Cash seized: $2,005 (down from $4,335 last year).
  • Injury accidents: 64 (up from 50 last year).


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