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Driver blamed wind in crash that killed 3 motorcyclists near Laughlin, police say

Updated April 17, 2024 - 10:37 pm

A semi-truck driver accused in a crash that killed three motorcyclists near Laughlin last month blamed the wind for causing him to drive on wrong-way lanes, according to a Nevada Highway Patrol arrest report released Wednesday.

Claude Rafiki, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was initially facing three counts of felony reckless driving causing death and DUI counts.

Clark County prosecutors are not pursuing the DUI charges, according to court records. The district attorney’s office has not returned messages seeking comment about its decision.

Troopers said Rafiki, 29, had bloodshot eyes and an “unsteady gait” after the afternoon crash March 23.

The collision occurred on state Route 163 near the Nevada state line with California and Arizona, state troopers said.

The three victims were on two motorcycles, troopers said.

The Clark County coroner’s office said they were: Owen Hart, 22; Athena Faye Taylor, 21, and Jeremy Gebo, 44. All three were residents of St. George, Utah.

The arrest report said an off-duty Clark County Fire Department captain witnessed the crash.

He said he had been driving behind Rafiki, 29, when he saw the truck veer onto wrong-way lanes, the report said.

The victims died at the scene.

Asked what happened, the report said, “Claude stated that the ‘wind’ had caused him to go the wrong way prior to the fatal crash.”

Troopers said Rafiki had an “unsatisfactory performance” in his field-sobriety screening, the report said. They drew blood as Rafiki agreed to submit to a drug test.

A trooper who was described as a drug recognition expert wrote in the arrest report that Rafiki was suspected of being “under the influence of dissociative anesthetic and central nervous system stimulants and is unable to safely operate a motor vehicle safely.”

Rafiki remained at the Clark County Detention Center on Wednesday with a $500,000 bail, records show.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 25.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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