Two motorcyclists believed to be in the St. Louis area for a gathering of stunt riders have died in separate crashes, authorities said.
The "Ride of the Century" gathering attracts street-bike riders from across the country and has drawn complaints over the years from motorists about dangerous stunts. More than two dozen people already had been arrested before the first deadly crash happened at 1:35 a.m. Saturday when cyclist Justin Rohe, 25, of St. Charles, ran a red light in St. Charles County and was struck by another vehicle. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said he was pronounced dead at the scene.
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At the time, Rohe wasn't directly involved in the Ride of the Century gathering, said Trooper Juston Wheetley. But he said Rohe was participating in the event and had attended a news conference Wednesday supporting it.
The second cyclist, Michael Evans, 32, of St. Louis, died at 6:05 p.m. Saturday after clipping an unmarked police car, going off the side of the road and striking a pole, St. Louis police said. Before feeling the impact of the crash, the officer reported seeing several motorcycles traveling at a high rate of speed.
Officers believe Evans was in St. Louis as part of the Labor Day weekend motorcycle gathering, said police spokesman Schron Jackson.
This year marks the 11th Ride of the Century, sponsored by a St. Louis stunt motorcycle team known as Streetfighterz. There was no immediate response to message left for Streetfighterz on their website and Facebook page.
Police from throughout the region pledged to crackdown this year after issuing nearly 100 tickets and arresting 19 motorcyclists last year. The stepped up enforcement began immediately with St. Louis police on Thursday night arresting 23 people and towing 24 motorcycles from an area near Interstate 70 after officers observed what they called dangerous behavior. Jackson said cyclists were seen doing stunts on the streets, running red lights, driving on sidewalks and driving on the wrong side of the road.
"The safety of our citizens and visitors is our top priority," Jackson said in a written statement. "All violators will be cited and/or arrested."
Wheetley said that because large groups of motorcyclists had shut down interstates in the past to perform stunts, extra officers were assigned to patrol the streets this year. He said the traffic problems didn't seem to be as bad.
"Our primary goal is to stop the stunts, keep everybody safe and maintain the flow of traffic," he said.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch has said his officers will go to the extraordinary measure of contacting the insurance company for motorcyclists accused of hazardous violations to make sure the company knows about the dangerous activity and can adjust rates accordingly.
Streetfighterz formed in St. Louis in 1999. The team has a production company that produces stunt DVDs and online videos.