CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Five bikers were found dead Sunday in a recreational vehicle at a Tennessee speedway and an organizer for the motorcycle festival blamed the deaths on fumes from a generator.
Three men and two women were found in the RV at the Clarksville Speedway about noon and there was no sign of foul play, Clarksville police spokesman Jim Knoll said.
Bill Langford, the director of the event Bikers Who Care, said he headed to the scene on a four-wheeler when an ambulance and a fire truck arrived.
“One of our club members came over and said, ‘Bill, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they’re all dead,’” he said.
Langford said the bikers’ group was like a close-knit family and he was close friends with the people who had died. He identified them as a married couple who had 8-month-old twins. The man was a truck driver and his wife was a school teacher.
Another couple also died as well as a co-worker of one of the men. All were from the Clarksville area about 40 miles northwest of Nashville.
“Me and these guys had a meeting every Thursday of the year,” he said. “These three guys are three of my closest friends.”
Two of the men worked security on Saturday night during the event’s big party, which featured motorcycle drag races, live music and fireworks. Bikini and tattoo contests were scheduled and the charity’s website said there was free beer.
It appears a small storage hatch on the RV did not close properly, allowing fumes from the generator to leak inside the vehicle, Langford said.
“Most of them didn’t get to bed until four o’clock in the morning, and most of those people didn’t go in that trailer at the same time to go to bed,” he said. “I just find that kind that of strange. Why didn’t they notice?”
The bikers who found the bodies were taken to a hospital after feeling dizzy and light-headed, Langford said. They all had high amounts of carbon monoxide in their systems, he said.
By Sunday evening, the crowd of a couple of thousand people had thinned and only a handful of people remained, sitting around campfires. Nearby, portable toilets were still out and a party tent was still up with a large American flag on top of it.
Photos from the festival showed yellow police tape around the camper and tents that had been put up nearby. The camper was later towed away.
Langford said the bikers collect toys for needy children and raised funds for Camp Rainbow, a summer camp for seriously ill children at Land Between the Lakes recreation area on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. They also contribute to the Buddy Ball sports league for children with mental and physical disabilities.
The cornerstone of the event was a toy run, where the bikers lined up at the speedway and rode through town. Organizers said they gathered four truckloads of toys.
It was the 30th year of the event. Knoll said group was very civic-minded and there had never been any problems at previous events at the speedway.
Before the bodies were found, Langford told The Leaf-Chronicle that it had been a wonderful success.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said, “the weather was beautiful, the temperature was perfect. We had a record crowd, not one incident …”
Police would not say if they were investigating whether carbon monoxide was the cause of the deaths. Knoll said the cause would have to be determined by a coroner. Police also did not release the identities of the dead.
Langford promised the festival would be held next year.
“It’s going to be hard for next year or two,” he said. “But we’re going to keep doing what we do for the kids.”
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