Families of fatal crash victims urge riders and drivers to be safe; ‘let them come home’

RAPID CITY, S.D.  — Fatal crashes are on the rise this year and traffic during the 80th Sturgis Rally also increases which can mean more accidents and fatalities.

A Rapid City family of bikers and enthusiasts know the pain of witnessing these events. They share their story involving the death of a loved one, to encourage safe driving and getting bikers and drivers home alive.

Every year around July 16th, Logan Gerlach, 27, takes his Harley-Davidson motorcycle out to the site of his late father’s crash.

“When I take my trip up to Gillette where it happened, all day, I’ll think about him,” says Logan. “When I get on my bike and I ride, I just make sure that I‘m watching both ways and I‘m making sure that I‘m not going to end up the same way.”

Father, Michael Gerlach, who had just turned 52 and expecting his first grandchild, was hit by the front side of a truck heading south on U.S. Highway 59 in Wyoming in 2010.

He broke most of the bones on the left side of his body as he slid across the road and was sent to Rapid City hospital. The time of the crash to the hospital took six hours.  

“The doctor had just come in to talk to us about the concerns with the head injury and the nurse came in and said we lost the pulse and he was gone,” said wife and mother, Lori Gerlach.

At the time of the accident, the driver of the dodge pickup truck was a 20 year old man. He was cited for not yielding to the right of way.

Lori says her husband’s death was a case of distraction behind the wheel.

“You know, people say i looked, and i‘ve met the young man. I let him know I believe it was a horrible accident, but I also believe he was in a hurry,” she said.

The Gerlach family is reminded of their loved one every time they hear a bike.

“I love the sound of the bikes,” Lori said. “But when I hear the sound of the bikes and the sirens, I cringe.”

Lori still hasn‘t driven a bike and doesn‘t know when she’ll ride again, but she still loves the idea of a ride and still supports her son’s passion for riding.

She asks that people take that extra few minutes to watch the roads.

Those few extra minutes are not worth a lifetime.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News, Sturgis Rally