Alcohol and speed to blame for local rider's fatality
A RCMP cruiser is shown in Vancouver, May 25, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Colin Shepherd died while riding his motorcycle for charity on Saturday.
Moose Jaw RCMP said in a press release that, “speed and alcohol are believed to be contributing factors in the collision.”
The 55-year-old Moose Jaw man was one of 38 participants in the Prairie Eagle Riders Poker Derby when Shepherd’s motorcycle – heading south – left Highway 2 and rolled into the east ditch. He was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 5:30 p.m.
A Fraternal Order of Eagles trustee explained the annual poker derby as a “club within a club.”
All proceeds of the derby – which has been hosted by the Moose Jaw aerie of the Eagles since 2008 – were going to the children’s ward of the Moose Jaw Union Hospital.
Registration for the derby ended at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. The derby had five stops (Belle Plaine, Regina, Lumsden, Bethune and Chamberlain) where riders would get a card for their poker hand. The best hand after all five stops would be the winner.
An organizer for the poker derby declined to reveal the stop locations to the Times-Herald on Monday.
Waitresses at bars in both Belle Plaine and Lumsden confirmed that the poker derby did stop at their locations. The Times-Herald has chosen to withhold the names of both waitresses.
“They just picked up their, I think, first cards and then had a drink and then they left,” said the Belle Plaine waitress. “Everyone just had one beer.”
She said the derby participants left within a half hour.
They stopped at an establishment in Lumsden later in the afternoon.
“Some of them had a couple (alcoholic) drinks. Some of them had a pop and a few of them ordered food,” said the Lumsden waitress.
She said the derby riders were not drinking excessively: “Like, one drink. Maybe two.”
Sergeant Dean Bohlken of the Moose Jaw RCMP said that the poker derby is not to blame for Shepherd’s fate.
“The issue itself isn’t poker rallies, it’s drinking and driving.” Sgt. Dean Bohlken, Moose Jaw RCMP
“As the unit commander for Moose Jaw, as far as I’m concerned, poker derbies are not the problem,” Bohlken said.
He said there are a lot of well-run and well-attended derbies that raise funds for charitable causes.
“The issue itself isn’t poker rallies, it’s drinking and driving and it will always be that,” Bohlken said. “Those who choose to disregard the law with respect to drinking and driving will probably choose to do so, no matter what activity they’re involved in.”
He said impaired driving is still a matter of indifferent public opinion.
“In some eyes, it’s seen to be an OK thing to do and it can lead to tragic consequences, as it appears to have done in this case,” Bohlken said.
Shepherd was a friend of Ross Crampton’s, the founder and president of the local poker derby.
“He just lost control. That’s all I know,” Crampton said. “We were spread out all the way from Moose Jaw to Chamberlain.”
Crampton was reluctant to speak about Shepherd’s death in connection with the derby, though he told the Times-Herald Shepherd was wearing a helmet.
“The fact that somebody died raising funds from this ride, to me, is not public interest,” Crampton said. “All that will do is draw negative attitude towards motorcycles, to the Eagles and to us.”
He said poker derbies across the country are run the same way and fatalities are “very, very, very unheard of.”
Crampton said he has “no idea” how common drinking is during poker derbies.
When asked about plans for next year’s run, Crampton said, “I see no reason why it shouldn’t carry on.”
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX.