June 21, 2009
A collision between a motorcycle, with two riders aboard, and a pronghorn on Saturday afternoon, June 20, resulted in serious injuries to the passenger and minor injuries to the driver. The single vehicle collision occurred at 1:25 p.m. on Highway 26/89/191, two miles south of the Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park. Brady Burgess, a 38-year-old resident of Garland, Utah and his passenger and wife, 46-year-old Koreen Burgess, were traveling southbound when the collision occurred.
Burgess, driving his 2005 Polaris Victory motorcycle, was leading a string of about seven motorcycles, when he entered the northbound lane, attempting to pass a motor home. As he started to clear the front of the RV, a pronghorn, heading eastward, began to race across the highway. While traveling at approximately 65 miles per hour, Burgess attempted to swerve left to avoid the animal. In response to the approaching vehicle, the pronghorn leapt into the air and impacted the right side of the motorcycle. The force of the impact knocked both riders off the motorcycle, causing the bike to tip over. The motorcycle continued to slide for approximately 100 feet down the highway. Neither Burgess nor his wife was wearing a helmet at the time.
Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received reports of the accident from several passers-by shortly after it occurred. Eleven park rangers and emergency medical personnel responded immediately to the scene. Emergency medical personnel from Teton County and an off duty Minnesota highway patrolman, who was first on the scene, also assisted with the incident. Two ambulances—one from Grand Teton and the other from Teton County—responded to the scene to transport the two injured people to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.
Due to the serious nature of the incident, and the multiple ambulances and emergency medical personnel required to treat the injured people, Highway 26/89/191 was closed to traffic for one hour from 1:40 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. Park rangers assisted with traffic control at Moran and Moose junctions and diverted vehicles through a detour along the Teton Park Road.
Grand Teton National Park rangers have concluded their investigation of the collision; however, this incident serves as an important reminder that wildlife are often wandering across, or lingering near, park roadways. Therefore, all motorists must be extra alert while driving and slow down for their own safety, as well as the welfare of park animals.
Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife on park roads. Driving slower than indicated speed limits—especially at night—can increase the margin of safety for people and animals alike. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.