Five motorcyclists killed, five more injured

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

The weekend proved to be a deadly one for motorcyclists in the area with five being killed and more injured in three separate accidents in or near Ripley County. Within a time span of 24 hours, law enforcement and emergency rescue workers would respond to three accidents that had fatal results.

The first crash occurred at approximately 3:20 p.m. Saturday, June 9 when Bryant Withers, 18 of Milan, crossed the center line for reasons unknown and struck several motorcycles that were participating in the American Federation of Rider’s annual poker run.

According to information from the Indiana State Police, the initial investigation revealed a group of motorcyclists were traveling eastbound on SR 350 just east of the Ripley/Dearborn County line. A group of motorists traveling westbound began to pull to the right side of the roadway to allow extra room for the motorcycles to pass them. The last car in the line of westbound vehicle, a 2006 Mercury Sable, driven by Withers, crossed the center line striking at least three motorcycles.

Joseph Hurley II, 43, of Harrison, OH was operating a 1996 Yamaha and he and his passenger, Lisa Rhoades, 40, also of Harrison, OH, were both pronounced dead at the scene. Also fatally injured was David Bartley, 40, of Greendale, who was operating a 2005 Harley Davidson.

Withers was flown to University Hospital in Cincinnati, where he was treated and released. Also injured in the crash was Dale House, 50 of Florence, KY, and wife, Connie. They were operating a 2002 Harley Davidson. Pete Izzo of North Bend, OH, was not struck by the vehicle, but was injured when he laid his motorcycle down to avoid debris. He was treated at the scene by EMS personnel for a minor abrasion to his leg, according to information from Sgt. Noel Houze Jr. of the Indiana State Police.

The crash is being investigated by S/Tpr. Ben Bastin, and assisted by Sgt. Dan Goris of the Indiana State Police. Also assisting at the scene were officers from the Dearborn and Ripley County Sheriff’s Departments, Moores Hill Fire Department and EMS, Milan Fire Department, University of Cincinnati Air Care, and the Dearborn County Coroner’s Office.

Officers are asking for the public’s help. They are looking for the driver of a 2000 model silver Chevrolet Impala with Indiana In God We Trust license plates who was the lead driver in the line of westbound cars that pulled to the side. Officers stress this person is not under suspicion for any violation but could possibly have information that may prove valuable to the investigation. That person is asked to contact S/Tpr. Ben Bastin or Sgt. Dan Goris of the Indiana State Police Versailles District at 812-689-5000 or 800-566-6704. (The 800 number is good in Indiana only).

That same evening around 6:26 p.m. police responded to a car/motorcycle accident on US 50 and Front Street in Dillsboro. According to Dillsboro Police Chief Ryan W. Brandt when officers arrived on the scene there was a vehicle and motorcycle blocking the eastbound lanes of US 50.

The passenger car involved was driven by Lisa Dole of Harrison, OH. James Penwell, driver of the motorcycle was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Lori A. Kirchner was air cared to University of Cincinnati Hospital and is listed in critical condition. Dole was taken to the Dearborn County Hospital where she was treated and released.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by John Hegge of the Dillsboro Police, who was assisted by the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department, Dillsboro Fire Department, Dillsboro Life Squad, Aurora Police Department, Aurora Life Squad and the Dearborn County Coroner’s Office.
A third accident claimed yet another motorcyclist on Sunday, June 10 around 4:00 p.m. According to information from Sgt. Noel Houze Jr. of the Indiana State Police, the crash occurred on SR 101 approximately a mile north of Milan.

The initial investigation showed that two motorcycles were traveling northbound on SR 101 when they slowed down for a vehicle that was turning into a private drive. The motorcycles were being followed by a 1993 Ford dual wheel pickup truck driven by Jacob Eckstein, 19, of Sunman. The police report noted that Eckstein’s attention was diverted briefly and when he looked ahead the motorcycles were slowed or stopped and he struck one of them, a 2003 Kawasaki being operated by Ralph Peterson, 63, of Laurel. Mr. Peterson was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, 56-year-old Sandra, was a passenger on the motorcycle. She was airlifted to University Hospital in Cincinnati by Dove Flight Air Ambulance for possible internal injuries and is listed in critical condition. Eckstein was not injured.
Sgt. Houze noted that neither of the Peterson’s was wearing helmets. He said investigators and rescue personnel on the scene believed a helmet may have saved Mr. Peterson from fatal injuries. The crash remains under investigation.

Trooper Brian Pennock of the Indiana State Police is investigating the crash, assisted by Sgt. Dan Goris. Also assisting at the scene were officers from the Ripley County Sheriff’s Department, Milan Police Department, Milan Rescue 30, Milan Fire Department, Ripley County Medic, Dove Fight Air Ambulance, and the Ripley County Coroner’s Office.

None of those fatally injured in the three accidents were wearing helmets according to police. Witnesses at the scene of the triple fatality noted that they didn’t believe wearing a helmet would have made any difference.

Pictured is the car Bryant Withers, 18, of Milan, was driving when for unknown reasons he veered into the path of a group of motorcyclists in an accident that occurred on Saturday, June 9 near the Ripley/Dearborn County line. Three motorcyclists were killed and three more injured in the crash.