GREAT FALLS — There has been a spike in the number of motorcyclists who have died in crashes in recent weeks across Montana, including five in Cascade County.
Samantha Gondeiro, who is a motorcyclist and a police officer in Great Falls, said arriving at the scene of motorcycle crashes is never easy.
“For me it's hard, because I know the risks and I want everyone to enjoy motorcycles, but when I show up and find out that the motorcyclist was being careless or wasn't abiding by the rules, it's hard," she said.
Gondeiro has been riding bikes since she was young: “I started out with dirt bikes up in the mountains, and then when I got to college I started street bikes which was a whole new ball game.”
But even the most experienced of motorcyclists still struggle on the road.
“It doesn’t take a lot to get hurt on these things,” said Gondeiro. “I was going maybe 10 miles per hour when I broke my elbow.”
City driving, open road driving, or just cruising around - safety is always a priority.
“I have honestly been impressed with the amount of people here who wear helmets and use the proper lane-filtering procedures,” Gondeiro said when asked about what she sees here. “Wearing a helmet is so important, because that's what is ultimately going to save you.”
Wearing a helmet isn't a law in Montana - but it does increase your chances of survival.
Non-motorcyclists are urged to keep the following in mind:
- Blind spots (motorcycles can come in and out of blind spots very quickly)
- Don't cut them off. If you see a motorcycle give them about 4 to 5 car lengths to slow down, because bikes are much harder to control.
- Be extra cautious when driving on wet roads around motorcycles
Here's some details about recent motorcycle crashes in Cascade County:
A man died in a motorcycle crash in Great Falls on Tuesday, August 23. The Great Falls Police Department says the single-vehicle crash happened at about 6:30 a.m. The crash was in the vicinity of 15th Avenue South and 33rd Street South, near Russell Park. The identity of the man has not yet been released, and the the GFPD is investigating the crash.
On Monday, July 11, emergency crews responded to a one-vehicle crash near the intersection of River Drive North and 25th Street. Shane Tuttle, 52 years old, was riding a motorcycle westbound on River Drive North when he failed to negotiate a curve in the road which resulted in a crash. Tuttle sustained blunt force trauma injuries as a result of the crash. The manner of death was accidental. Several days after the crash, an obituary was published for Tuttle, which states: "Shane departed this world while doing what he so loved, riding his Harley."
On Tuesday, July 19, emergency crews responded to a two-vehicle crash just after 9 p.m. at the intersection of 10th Avenue South and 7th Street involving a motorcycle and a Honda sedan. The driver of the motorcycle was William J. Griffin, 37 years old. CPR was given by medical personnel at the scene, and Griffin was then to a Great Falls hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Honda did not sustain serious injuries. The cause of death is blunt force trauma and cause of death was accidental. We do not know of any criminal charges or citations in connection with the crash.
On Thursday, August 11, there was a two-vehicle crash at Central Avenue West and Vaughn Road. It happened at about 1:20 p.m. and involved a motorcycle and a truck. The motorcyclist, Allen Helminiak, age 43, was taken to Benefis hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries later that evening. The cause of death was blunt force trauma and manner of death is accidental. We do not know of any criminal charges or citations in connection with the crash.
On Saturday, August 13, 47-year old Troy Aaron England died in a one-vehicle motorcycle crash near Neihart. Cascade County Sheriff Slaughter said it appears that England lost control of the motorcycle while traveling around a corner. The passenger on the motorcycle sustained "extensive injuries" and was airlifted to to Benefis Health System in Great Falls via Mercy Flight helicopter. There is no word on the person's current condition.
The Montana Highway Patrol has not released details about any of these crashes.
Robert Bhatt with Farmers Insurance says motorcycle fatalities in Montana have increased by 26% since 2019.
The Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety teaches classes to help riders improve skills in every defensive manner, such as braking and swerving. To enroll, you can visit motorcycle.msun.edu.