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Cyclist died in odd crash near Jeffrey City; family wants changes made

Aug 25, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Highway officials said the California man who died Saturday while riding a bicycle near Jeffrey City had fallen after he "made a mistake" crossing a cattle guard.

Frank Uher, 68, of Truckee, California, died at the scene of the accident, which was reported at about 9:20 a.m. Saturday on Wyoming Highway 789 about 15 miles southeast of Jeffrey City.

He was pulling in to the Split Rock Historic Site when he "got tripped up" on the cattle guard, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Pence said.

"He went over the handle bars, and that's what caused the fatal injuries," Pence said Wednesday, describing "severe" impacts to Uher's head and neck.

Uher was wearing a helmet, Pence noted, and he wasn't traveling more than "a couple miles an hour."

"It was just a tragic accident," he said, "just a bad incident."

Tire in cattle guard

WHP reports indicate conditions were sunny and dry at the time Uher began crossing the cattle guard, traveling from the highway into the Split Rock property "at an angle."

"The front tire turned and got caught between he rails," the report states.

Before officials got to the scene, the report continues, bystanders began administering CPR; responding troopers continued CPR until an ambulance arrived.

"Although great efforts were made to revive the bike rider, he passed away on scene," the WHP report says, recognizing the bystanders, the ambulance crew, Jeffrey City's fire department and the Fremont County Sheriff's Office for assisting.

Changes sought

Uher was traveling with three other people, including his brother, who, with Uher's wife and children, have sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management proposing "immediate and long-term remedies" that could make cattle guards safer for bicyclists.

The title of the letter refers to "cattle guard design, construction, inspection and maintenance failure." The family indicates there was a "large gap" in the guard rail sections of the cattle guard that caused Uher to lose control and be thrown from his bike, landing head-first on the asphalt pavement and fracturing his skull. He also suffered facial contusions, "massive loss of blood" and death, according to the letter.

'Horrible death

and loss'

"It is a material part of the grieving process to ask 'why' and 'what would likely have prevented this horrible death and loss,'" Uher's family wrote. "We are looking to you for the ultimate answers."

They suggest that, "until the cattle guard can be made fully safe for bicycle crossing," the BLM could take "immediate action" by installing warning signs on each side of the cattle guard, including phrases like, "Danger, unsafe for bicycle crossing," or, "Danger, walk your bike."

They also recommended temporary repairs, including "butting the rails together to close the above-referenced 'gap'" and "welding a metal strap across all rail joints to cover any potential remaining 'gaps.'"

"Ultimately we recommend that you redesign cattle guards to increase the width of the rail surface and reduce the spacing between rails," they wrote.

Other sites

Uher's traveling companions inspected the cattle guard rails at the Split Rock site, which they said measured about 1.75 inches wide and were spaced about 6 inches apart. They also looked at other cattle guard designs along the highway between Lander and Jeffrey City and found some had rails that were 3 inches wide with open spaces measuring only 4.25 inches to 5.25 inches "creating a much safer surface for bicycle crossing."

"A further improvement would be to use full length sections of rail versus several sections (four in the case of Spilt Rock) which would eliminate any potential for 'gaps,'" Uher's family concluded.

BLM officials said they have received the family's letter and are giving the recommended changes "due consideration."

"We're really sad to hear about this accident," BLM assistant field manager for resources Curtis Bryan said Thursday. "We'll look at their suggestions and try to make some decisions on what's appropriate for the site - what we can do not only there but maybe elsewhere."

Investigation

It's still early in the process, he noted, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol's investigation into the fatal incident isn't yet complete.

"Presumably they'll make some determinations on causal factors that played into the accident," Bryan said. "Hopefully once they button that up and find some resolution on that we can move forward."

Regardless, he continued, his agency has already had "several conversations" with partners including the Wyoming Department of Transportation about potentially changing cattle guard designs or placing warnings signs nearby.

In his decade with the BLM in Lander, Bryan said he has not heard of any other complaints "of this nature."

The writers of the letter included Uher's wife, Shauna, two adult children, Erik and Jessica, and his brother Will, who was biking with Uher at the time of his death, according to the letter.

The cyclists were traveling from Missoula, Montana, to Denver, Colorado, they said, following bike routes developed by the Adventure Cycling Association.

Uher is described in the letter as an "experienced cyclist using top quality equipment" including his bicycle and safety helmet.

"He possessed excellent bike handling skills," the letter states.

Toxicology

Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said Uher will not undergo an autopsy, but toxicology results will be available in about a week.

The same is true for Charles Marquardt, 56, of Illinois, who died in a one-vehicle rollover at about 11:45 p.m. Friday on Horse Creek Road above Dubois.

Marquardt's female passenger was injured in the incident, according to reports, and another person may have suffered injuries as well. Alcohol is being investigated as a possible factor in the crash, which involved a 1997 Toyota passenger car, according to reports.

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