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Four people were killed in traffic incidents this last week. Tony Mangan, Public Information Officer for the state Department of Public Safety, said that the frequency of traffic fatalities usually increases with the onset of summer.

Last week was one of the deadliest this year in terms of traffic fatalities. Between Tuesday, June 4 and Saturday, June 8, four people were killed in separate crashes throughout the state.

The names of three of the deceased individuals from last week were released by Tony Mangan, the state Department of Public Safety’s Public Information Officer, on Sunday and Monday, June 9 and 10.

In the one-vehicle fatal roll-over which occurred in Bennett County at 5:21 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, the deceased driver was 83-year-old Leota Frandsen of Martin, South Dakota. She was driving north on 237th Avenue about three miles north of Tuthill, the DPS news release said, when her vehicle — a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu — slid into the road’s east ditch as the road curved. As she was not wearing a seatbelt, she was thrown from the car and later pronounced dead at the scene. Frandsen was alone in the car when it rolled over.

In the one-vehicle fatal crash which occurred in Moody County at 1:19 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5, the deceased driver was 55-year-old Richard Ochs of Humboldt, South Dakota. According to the DPS news release which detailed the crash, Ochs’ truck, a 2017 Ford F-250 Pickup, drifted left on I-29 about five miles northeast of Colman and collided with a guard rail as he was driving over an overpass. The truck rolled over the rail and came to rest in the median of the street below. Ochs was the only person in the vehicle when it crashed.

In the one-vehicle fatal crash which occurred in Harding County at 11:39 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5, the deceased driver was 17-year-old Jaxon Klempel of Reva, South Dakota. According to the DPS report, the teenage driver was westbound on Sorum Road, about eight miles south of Reva when the crash occurred. The report said Klempel lost control of his vehicle, a 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup, which tipped and rolled over. Klempel was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the truck; he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was the only person involved in the crash.

The final driver killed last week was killed in a two-vehicle crash that happened at 12:55 p.m. on Saturday, June 8 in Hamlin County. According to the DPS news release sent out by Mangan on Sunday June 9, the crash occurred on U.S. Highway 81, about 11 miles south of Watertown. The names of those involved in the crash have not yet been released.

“A 1996 GMC Yukon was westbound on South Dakota Highway 22 when it made an illegal lane change to cross U.S. Highway 81. The vehicle collided with a 2013 Ford F-150 pickup which was traveling southbound on Highway 81,” Mangan said in the release.

The 82-year-old male driver of the Yukon was not wearing a seat belt. He was partially ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene. The 63-year-old female Ford driver was wearing a seat belt; she made it through the collision unscathed.

As of Friday, June 7, the official traffic fatality count for 2019 was 24 people. While this week did see some of the most fatalities so far this year, Mangan said this was not entirely unexpected.

“It’s summer, and more people are out in the summer,” he said. “We traditionally see our number of fatalities go up in the summer.”

Mangan also said that the 2019 fatality count was much lower than the 2018 count. By June 7 of 2018, there were 54 traffic fatalities. He said attaching causes or causative trends to fatality counts is difficult.

“It’s more people, it’s bad luck, it’s people not wearing their seat belts… you never know,” Mangan said.

Mangan said the Department of Public Safety urged all drivers this summer to travel safely and wear their seat belts.

“Everyone is important to someone,” Mangan said.

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