Motorcycle passenger, 70, dies after bike hits deer

Police say woman wore substandard helmet

September 19, 2000|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

A grandmother visiting from Denmark was killed Sunday when the motorcycle on which she was a passenger hit a deer in North Laurel, Howard County police said.

Carla Sorine Johl Jensen, 70, was riding on the back of a 1993 Harley Davidson driven by North Laurel resident Poul Erik Johansen, her granddaughter's husband, police said, when the accident occurred about 5 p.m.

Police said Johansen, 40, could not avoid hitting the deer when it ran in front of him as he headed weston his street, Harding Road. Jensen suffered head injuries and was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where she died shortly after the crash. Johansen had minor injuries for which he refused treatment, police said.

Both riders were wearing helmets but not models approved under federal and state safety standards, said Sgt. Frederick Von Briesen, supervisor of the county police traffic section. Helmets are required by state law. Jensen and Johansen wore the thinner kind of helmet that does not cover the ears. Von Briesen said the department believes Jensen might have lived had she been wearing the proper equipment.

Police determined that Johansen committed no traffic violation; he appeared to be driving at or near the 35-mph speed limit on Harding Road and had not been drinking. They also said the deer ran into a wooded area and was not seen again.

The fatal crash comes as local hunters are preparing for an expanded, controlled deer hunt that is to begin Oct. 16. Accidents such as Sunday's bolster the arguments of county officials who say culling the county's booming deer population is the best way to reduce the risk of collisions and of Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks.

However, animal rights activists - such as Martha Gagnon, president of Animal Advocates of Howard County- say managed hunts are inhumane and ineffective. Gagnon urges alternative methods to control the deer population, including contraception and repellents.

Neither the state nor the county had records of motor vehicle crashes involving deer. But as of last week, the Howard Police Department began to compile them.

Statistics of dead deer picked up on county roadsides do exist, however. In 1998, the most recent year for which the Department of Recreation and Parks could provide numbers, state and county road workers disposed of 846 carcasses.

Philip Norman, county deer project manager, said that, generally, the number represents about half the vehicle collisions with deer. Other wounded animals disappear into the woods, and drivers sometimes cart off the dead deer.

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