Two Killed at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Crash Numbers Higher Than Last Year

Two people taking part in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have died after crashing in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety confirmed that the first fatalities at this year's 10-day rally occurred on Monday after three motorbike riders collided on Highway 14A, mile marker 49, three miles west of Sturgis, at around 5:15 p.m. on Monday, August 10.

Officials said a 22-year-old driver of a 2015 Harley Davidson motorcycle traveling westbound on the highway failed to negotiate a curve and crossed the centerline before colliding with two eastbound motorcycles.

The 22-year-old was airlifted to a Rapid City hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. A 55-year-old male driver of an eastbound 2014 Indian Motorcycle was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

The third rider, a 60-year-old male on a 2005 Harley Davidson, suffered serious non-life-threatening injuries. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety confirmed that none of the riders were wearing helmets at the time.

So far, there have been a total of 28 injuries connected those taking part in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, 10 more than occurred during the same period at last year's event.

Accidents include a 56-year-old driver who was not wearing a helmet suffering life threatening injuries on Monday after crashing into a ditch and being thrown from his motorcycle on Highway 16A, mile marker 29.

There have also been 64 people arrested on suspicion of DUI, 104 misdemeanor drug arrests and a further 52 felony drug arrests.

There have been concerns about this year's event taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rally, which has seen more than 200,000 drivers arrive in Sturgis, is not requiring that masks be worn, raising fears that the crowds spilling into the bars and streets could spread the virus across the state and beyond.

In an email to CBS News, City of Sturgis Public Information Officer Christina Steele said they decided to still go ahead with what is billed as the largest motorcycle gathering in the world after hearing from "thousands of attendees that they were coming to the event, even if it was canceled."

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem also supported allowing the rally, which provides a major economic boost to the state, to go ahead this year.

"Our state had the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration. We had the first national indoor sporting event with fans thanks to @PBR. We've been 'Back to Normal' for over 3 months, and South Dakota is in a good spot," Noem tweeted on the first day of the event.

Official figures show that there are 10,000 fewer attendees at this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally compared to last year.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Motorcyclists ride through downtown Deadwood, South Dakota during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 8, 2020. Two people taking part in the event have died after crashing in South Dakota. Michael Ciaglo/Getty