South Dakota Attorney Gen. Jason Ravnsborg was driving a vehicle in a traffic crash Saturday night near Highmore that killed at least one person.
That's according to state officials who held an unusual and quickly called news conference Sunday in the Capitol led by Gov. Kristi Noem.
Except for Ravnsborg's name being released, fewer details were released Sunday about the fatal crash than normally are released in such incidents, including, for example, how many people and what kind of vehicles were involved and the rough outline of what happened.
According to Noem’s brief statement at the quickly called news conference and a later statement released via email by Ravnsborg, it appears he was driving a vehicle that was involved in a crash that resulted in the death of a person.
Highmore is 49 miles east-northeast of Pierre on Highway 14.
According to several news reports, investigators were still working the scene Sunday, with traffic blocked off in one lane for some distance and a white pickup truck with a damaged front-end still in the ditch near the crash scene. Noem and Public Safety Sec. Craig Price appeared at about 5:24 p.m., Sunday at the news conference in the Capitol that was streamed live and posted on the governor’s social media page.
“Good afternoon,” Noem said to the few present. “Last night at about 10:30 p.m. in Hyde County, the attorney general was involved in a traffic crash while driving on U.S. Highway 14 just west of Highmore. There was a fatality and law enforcement is working on identifying the deceased and notifying the family.”
At about 5:28 p.m., Sunday, Tim Bormann, chief of staff for Ravnsborg, sent out an email to news organizations with this statement from Ravnsborg:
“I am shocked and filled with sorrow following the events of last night. As Governor Noem stated, I am fully cooperating with the investigation and I fully intend to continue (to) do so moving forward. At this time, I offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to the family.”
Price took about three questions at the news conference, and said they were questions that could not yet be answered at this point in the investigation being conducted by the Highway Patrol, which is part of the DPS and under Price's purview.
No information was released about whether Ravnsborg or anyone else was injured or how many vehicles were involved or whether charges are pending..
Typically, the DPS in its initial report - usually within 12 to 24 hours - releases more information about a serious traffic crash that injured and/or killed people than was released Sunday by Noem and Price, with one key exception: usually not any names are released until several days later, after family members have been notified.
It seems apparent the fact that a top state official was involved in the fatal crash - in this case the state's top law enforcement official - seems to be a reason why the normal protocols weren't followed in this case.
For comparison's sake, in another fatal crash Saturday that was reported on Sunday by DPS before 3 p.m., Tony Mangan, spokesman of the DPS and the Highway Patrol, released a typical report.
He announced that at about 1 p.m., Saturday, a 35-year-old man was killed in a one-vehicle rollover while southbound on state Highway 73 about 2 miles south of Martin while driving a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck.
According to Mangan's report: "One man died Saturday afternoon in a one-vehicle crash south of Martin. The name of the person is not yet being released pending notification of family members. He was the only person involved. A 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup was southbound on South Dakota Highway 73 when the driver lost control. The vehicle eventually went into the east ditch and rolled. The 35-year-old male driver was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene."
That is a typical initial traffic crash report issued by the DPS.
The initial DPS reports usually include whether charges are pending against anyone involved in a traffic crash.
Usually names of people involved in traffic crashes are not released until several days later.
To see the news conference: https://www.facebook.com/govnoem/videos/638011017142113