A Utah couple was knocked off their motorcycle in Grand Teton National Park when a pronghorn antelope slammed into it while trying to cross U.S. Highway 26/89/91.
While the driver, Brady Burgess, 38, of Garland, sustained minor injuries, his 46-year-old wife, Koreen, was more seriously injured and transported to a Salt Lake City hospital for treatment.
The accident, which happened Saturday afternoon and forced the highway's closure for an hour, was highly unusual but demonstrates the care motorists must take while traveling through the national park, Grand Teton officials said.
The collision occurred at 1:25 p.m. about 2 miles south of the park's Snake River Overlook. The Burgesses, who were riding a 2005 Polaris Victory motorcycle, were traveling southbound when the collision occurred. They were leading a string of about seven motorcycles when Mr. Burgess entered the northbound lane in an attempt to pass a motor home.
As the motorcycle 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, Mr. Burgess tried to swerve left to avoid the animal. In response to the approaching vehicle, the pronghorn leaped 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 Mr. 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.
Park officials said the 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.
There was no immediate word as to the fate of the antelope.