Almost 20 cyclists were traveling through Nevada's open desert on Thursday when they were involved in the deadliest vehicle-cyclist crash in the state in at least 16 years. Around 9:40am a box truck plowed into the group along Highway 95 north of Searchlight, where the speed limit is 75mph, killing five. The southbound truck first hit cyclists at the back of the pack, then a Subaru hatchback "safety car" assigned to trail the group; the impact caused the car to then strike cyclists who were biking in front of it, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka says, per NBC News. Four men and a woman were pronounced dead at the scene. Three other cyclists were injured along with the car's driver; one of those cyclists was airlifted from the scene with critical injuries, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
"It's just the worst thing I could ever see in my life," Michael Anderson, a former police officer who was part of the group but uninjured, tells the Review-Journal, which describes this as the "deadliest vehicle vs. bicyclist crash in Nevada since 2004," when data on such crashes first became available. Anderson says the group had completed the 130-mile Nipton Loop each year for the last 15 years and set out to do the same on Thursday. He says some cyclists had ridden behind the safety car to take cover from wind when they were struck and pinned against the car. The uninjured truck driver is cooperating with investigators. Smaka says impairment is not suspected. Still, the community wonders how this could have happened. One local tells USA Today that the section of road has a shoulder "wide enough to fit three cars." (Read more car crash stories.)