FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 2, 2017) - Editor's note: Leaders engaging Soldiers is considered essential to preventing accidents. But what happens when leaders fail to engage each other? The following article is based on an actual fatal motorcycle accident. The names of the Soldiers have been changed to protect their privacy and that of their families.

Maj. Will Dean headed home on a Friday afternoon after completing his 42nd week of Command and General Staff College. He was looking forward to celebrating his second anniversary with his wife that evening. When he got home, he found out his ex-wife had driven from another state to pick up their 6-year-old daughter. Although disturbed by the news, he and his wife went ahead with their plans to celebrate their anniversary at a nearby casino. After dinner and drinks, Dean drove home and fell asleep on the couch while watching television.

About 9:30 the next morning, Maj. Charles Hicks, a CGSC classmate and fraternity brother of Dean's, rode his motorcycle to the Dean home. Although Hicks knew Dean wasn't Motorcycle Safety Foundation trained and didn't have an operator's license or insurance for his bike, he suggested they ride around the local area. About 45 minutes later, Dean got onto his Yamaha YZF 600RK motorcycle and followed Hicks onto the road.

During their ride, Dean and Hicks visited a motorcycle shop and a park. While at the park, Dean told his friend about the stressful visit from his ex-wife the previous day. When they arrived back at Dean's home about 1 p.m., the two friends parted company. Dean relaxed at home, playing video games and drinking until about 5 p.m. About an hour later, he got into an argument with his wife, jumped onto his motorcycle and angrily rode off.

Dean left the subdivision and accelerated. The street had a 35-mph speed limit and transitioned from a residential to rural area. After riding about three miles, Dean approached an intersection where a sign warned of limited sight distance ahead. A hay field obscured the view of cross traffic at the intersection, which was controlled by a two-way stop sign.

Traveling at a high speed, he was about 130 feet away when he realized the danger and locked his brakes to try and avoid entering the intersection. Despite leaving a 74-foot-long skid mark, he couldn't stop in time and slammed into the right-side passenger door of a pickup crossing the intersection.

The collision instantly killed Dean and threw him more than 60 feet across the intersection. The impact was so violent it bent the right side of the pickup's frame. The pickup then veered off the left side of the road and overturned two-and-a-half times before landing on its roof. The driver was ejected and severely injured, while the passenger was violently thrown around inside the vehicle. Neither was wearing a seat belt.

Passing motorists saw the accident and immediately called 911. An off-duty nurse happened upon the accident scene and checked the pickup's occupants. When one told her they'd been hit by a motorcycle, she searched the crash site and located Dean, finding him lying face down. A state trooper requested medical support, and a helicopter flew the driver of the pickup to a major trauma center while an ambulance transported the passenger to a local medical facility. Emergency medical service personnel checked Dean but couldn't find a pulse and contacted the county coroner, who pronounced Dean dead.

Why did the accident happen?

• The motorcycle wasn't out of control, but the rider was.

o Alcohol dulled Dean's perceptions, stealing the reaction time he needed to stop before entering the intersection.

o Anger dulled Dean's judgment, influencing him to speed and ride recklessly.

o Propelled by alcohol, anger and speed, Dean entered an intersection, collided with another vehicle and died.

• A buddy left a buddy behind. Hicks knew Dean wasn't properly trained, licensed or insured to ride, but encouraged him to do so anyway. Despite knowing the standards, Hicks ignored them and set up his buddy to die on the streets.

• The pickup's occupants failed to wear their seat belts. Even though they were hit by a much lighter vehicle, the impact was still severe enough to overturn the truck and eject the driver.

How could this accident be prevented?

• Soldiers must have the personal discipline to not drive their vehicles or operate motorcycles after drinking alcohol or while in an adverse mental state.

• Soldiers should exercise peer-to-peer leadership and not let violations of known standards go unchallenged.

• Seat belts must be worn at all times by all personnel in a moving vehicle.

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