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The Saddletramps Motorcycle Club from eastern San Diego County was on a desert outing for its 10th anniversary when a car plowed into the riders, killing four and one in the car. ‘Carnage was unreal,’ the club president says.
It was a family-oriented motorcycle club whose members married couples, small-business owners and government workers were riding about 150 miles to a casino to celebrate the group’s 10th anniversary.
But partway through the ride on a two-lane desert road in the Imperial Valley, a car plowed into the Saddletramps Motorcycle Club, leaving five people dead, five others critically injured and tangled metal spread across the road for 100 yards.
“The carnage was unreal, unreal,” club president Carl Smith said Sunday.
The 21 motorcycle enthusiasts began their ride Saturday in the eastern San Diego County community of Lakeside, where the group is based. They were on their way to Winterhaven, on the California-Arizona border.
Once in Imperial County, the bikers decided to travel State Route 98 rather than Interstate 8, where trucks and cars often press the speed limit.
Club members were wearing helmets, driving in formation for safety and were within the speed limit, according to the California Highway Patrol.
About 12:50 p.m., shortly after the group descended into the flatland of Imperial Valley, about 80 miles east of San Diego near the hamlet of Ocotillo, a gold Honda Civic pulled behind them.
The impatient Honda driver, heading east like the Saddletramps, attempted to pass the motorcycles by pulling into the westbound lane.
A Dodge Avenger, seeing the Honda heading toward it, swerved to the right shoulder, then overcompensated by swerving left, according to the CHP. The driver lost control, sending the car into a sideways skid and ramming head-on into at least six motorcyclists.
Smith estimated that the Honda was traveling 90 to 100 mph when it tried to pass the entire group of motorcycles.
“He came out of nowhere,” said Smith, who was riding point and was narrowly missed by the Dodge. “The other car went out of control and then started smashing into motorcycles. It was like bowling.”
Four motorcycle riders were killed. Five others were airlifted or taken by ambulance to UC San Diego Medical Center or El Centro Regional Medical Center, according to the CHP. A passenger in the Dodge, identified as the driver’s wife, was also killed.
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