Icy roads are to blame for a Department of Corrections vehicle veering off the highway between Sturgis and Deadwood Monday morning, injuring inmates and their supervisor. The seven-member work crew was from the minimum security prison in Rapid City. They were on their way to thin the forests around Deadwood, which is important work ahead of what could be an active fire season.
The crash happened at an intersection in the Boulder Canyon subdivision between Sturgis and Deadwood around 7:30 Monday morning. First responders say that calling the roads slick would be an understatement.
"Pulling up on scene when I stopped, my vehicle stopped and still slid over on the side of the road, so that shows how extremely icy it really was," Lawrence County Emergency Manager Paul Thomson said.
Crews from both Deadwood and Sturgis found four inmates and their supervisor injured.
"One guy, his back was injured and started out with no feeling in his legs and that's the one we life flighted," Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Trigg said.
The inmates who weren't hurt helped out.
"One of the inmates had taken [the supervisor's] radio and called for help and was directing the responders that were coming there, who was hurt worse and who needed help," Thomson said.
The crew had been contracted by the city of Deadwood to help thin trees around town ahead of fire season. It's work for which the community is grateful.
"They always place a great importance on the work that the inmates are doing. The State of South Dakota trimming those trees and piling and burning because all the work done ahead of time pays off in reducing the wildfire threat," Thomson said.
"As dry as it is, it's very important. Fire mitigation, especially in this season, is huge to us," Trigg said.
And with much work still to do, Thomson hopes that the crew recovers quickly so he can welcome them back to his community.
According to the DOC, hundreds of low-risk offenders do work release and community service jobs across the state. Monday was supposed to be the first time the inmate work crew returned to Deadwood since late last fall.