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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has first fatality of nine-day run

This was the scene on Main Street in Sturgis, S.D., for the annual motorcycle rally. Photo courtesy of Christina Steele / City of Sturgis

STURGIS, S.D.—The first official fatality of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally occurred Sunday, Aug. 6, when a car and a semi collided, killing the 25-year-old driver of the car from Manti, Utah.

The man was driving a 2009 Toyota Corolla northbound on U.S. Highway 85 about 11 miles south of Buffalo and crossed center line, according to the Department of Public Safety.

A southbound semi driven by a 44-year-old man from Dickinson, N.D., swerved to try to miss the car but the vehicles collided.

Both drivers were wearing seat belts. Their names were not released.

Buffalo is about 90 miles straight north of Sturgis in far northwest South Dakota.

Fatal accidents in the Rapid City region are counted in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally tallies of crashes and arrests.

Last year through the first weekend there were no fatal crashes.

Meanwhile, South Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan also reported that drug arrests over the first weekend of the rally were down substantially, while DUIs were about the same at 49 this year compared to 47 last year.

Drug arrests dropped from 67 to 51,with only five felony drug arrests compared to 14 last year.

Total citations written by law enforcement in the area were also down substantially to 334 compared to 438 last year.

Serious accidents were up, however, to 23 from only 12 last year during the first weekend.

Two men suffered life-threatening injuries in crashes Sunday on Interstate 90. A 42-year-old motorcyclist from King George, Va., lost control of his motorcycle because of a high gust of wind about 13 miles west of Murdo and veered off the road. A 59-year-old man from Brownsburg-Chatham, Quebec, lost control of his cycle on Interstate 90 on an overpass 4 miles west of Reliance.

Another life-threatening crash on Sunday was something law enforcement officials say happens too often where a motorcyclist fails to negotiate turns or curves on the winding Black Hills roads. In this incident, a 40-year-old woman from Southwick, S.D., failed to negotiate a left-hand turn about 4 miles east of Deadwood and went off the road.

None of the motorcyclists were wearing helmets.

Meanwhile, right in Sturgis, where the rally opened Friday and runs through Saturday, Aug. 12, the vendors selling goods were down from 685 last year on Monday to 654 this year. The 15th annual Mayor's Ride was Monday morning.