Crash experts have questioned how the South Dakota Attorney General could have mistaken hitting a man for a deer during a fatal collision.
Jason Ravnsborg told officers that he thought he had hit a large animal while driving home on September 12 to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser some 110 miles away in Redfield. He said he only realized he killed a man, later identified as 55-year-old Joseph Boever, after returning to the site the next morning.
Now mechanical engineer Kurt Weiss has told News Watch that had Ravnsborg been driving without distraction: ‘It would be easy to tell the difference; even at 100 mph, you would be able to tell the difference between an erect human versus a deer, no question, and that would be part of the interrogation of Mr. Ravnsborg.’
The experienced traffic-accident reconstruction expert added: ‘If he [Ravnsborg] is looking forward and had the headlights on, it would be easy to discern if it’s someone’s jeans and a flannel shirt versus a beige-colored deer.
‘But if he’s looking down or to the left and he blasts something, you might not know what you hit. But how could he not; look at the hole in the windshield.’
Ravnsborg (left) hit and killed 55-year-old Joe Boever (right) with his car near Highmore on Saturday night and called 911 to report that he’d hit a deer
A second expert, John Desch, said if Boever was wearing dark clothing and walking in the traffic lane then it is possible Ravnsborg could have hit him without knowing.
But he added: ‘If a pedestrian is walking on the shoulder, there is some kind of reliance on their part that they’re in a safer area. That would be clear negligence on the part of the driver.
‘They better not just try to cover this thing up or make it a half-assed job. That would not serve anybody.’
The Ford Taurus that Ravnsborg was driving the night he killed Boever had a huge hole in the windshield of the passenger’s side (pictured)
Tire tracks are visible on the side of the highway on Monday, September 14, where Boever’s truck sat Saturday night when he was killed while walking back to the vehicle
Ravnsborg, 44, told the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office that because it was dark, around 10.30pm, he couldn’t see very well and thought he had hit a deer
Questions had already been asked around how the AG could have mistaken a deer for a person, particularly given the prevalence of animal collisions in the area and Ravnsborg’s tendency to make frequent, long trips along the state’s highways for small political events.
Michael Card, a political science professor at the University of South Dakota said it was that familiarity with the experience of colliding with a deer that has left many asking how the attorney general could hit a person and not realize it.
Details had also been slow to emerge about what happened on the Saturday night.
Ravnsborg finally released a statement on September 14, giving his account of what happened along a stretch of U.S. Highway 14 with no lighting.
The 44-year-old told the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office that because it was dark, around 10.30pm, he couldn’t see very well and thought he had hit a deer.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg
Ravnsborg told authorities he hit ‘something I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer)’ soon after he passed Boever’s hometown of Highmore.
‘I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate,’ he wrote, adding that he pulled out the flashlight on his cell phone and all he could see were pieces of his car strewn across the roadway.
The DPS said the crash occurred at 10:30 p.m. on U.S. Highway 14, one mile west of Highmore and along a stretch of road lit up with street lamps.
It takes one hour and seven minutes to drive from the restaurant to the crash site, reported Rapid City Journal.
After Ravnsborg called 911, Sheriff Volek arrived at the scene to assess the damage to his car and search for what he had hit.
He said they searched the area around the vehicle with flashlights but neither of them spotted Boever lying in a ditch.
‘At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,’ Ravnsborg wrote.
Because Ravnsborg’s car was too damaged to drive and a tow truck would take over an hour to arrive, Volek offered to let the attorney general take his personal car back to Pierre.
The following morning Ravnsborg and his chief of staff made the trip back to Highmore to return Volek’s vehicle.
The pair stopped at the crash site on their way and discovered a man’s body in the grass near the roadway.
‘My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr Boever was deceased,’ Ravnsborg wrote.
‘I immediately drove to Sheriff Volek’s home to report the discovery and he accompanied me back to the scene.
‘Once there, the sheriff instructed me that he would handle the investigation, and asked me to return to Pierre.’
The GOP dinner at a bar that South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (circled) attended before he killed Boever
Boever’s family have expressed suspicion that authorities could be working to cover up details of the incident to protect Ravnsborg. Boever is pictured second from right with relatives
Ravnsborg, who was alone in his 2011 Ford Taurus, insisted that he had not been drinking before he got behind the wheel and said he is ‘cooperating fully with the investigation’ by the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
He had attended a GOP dinner at a bar before the crash.
Photos posted on the Spink County Republicans’ Facebook page show Ravnsborg sitting near the stage at the small Republican fundraiser at Rooster’s Bar and Grill in Redfield Saturday night, hours before he hit 55-year-old Boever with his vehicle.
Witnesses at the fundraiser have vouched for the Attorney General, saying they didn’t see him drinking alcohol and that he did not seem ‘impaired in any way shape or form’.
Last week it was revealed Ravnsborg has previously shared photos from behind the wheel.
‘As many of you know I spend many hours behind the wheel traveling our great state, so I thought I would show you some of my great views and take more pictures of South Dakota as I travel,’ he wrote.
In another photo or dash cam still from May 2018, Ravnsborg is seen driving along a highway through rural South Dakota
Ravnsborg has also posted multiple pictures or grabs from dash cam video on Facebook of roads where it is clear he is behind the wheel including this photo from October 2019
New documents reveal Ravnsborg had received eight speeding tickets, six between 2014 and 2018 in South Dakota, and two in Iowa
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem promised a transparent investigation, saying she was bringing in outside investigators.
A crash reconstruction expert from Wyoming and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation are helping the state Highway Patrol with the investigation. Noem gave no timeline on when details would be released.
For the family of Boever, it has already been too long.
They have called the fatal crash ‘fishy’ and expressed concern that authorities could bungle the investigation to protect Ravnsborg – the top law enforcement official in the state.
Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec said relatives believe Boever was walking on the highway shoulder, toward his truck that had crashed earlier that same night.
‘Cousin was just a quiet, meek, mild guy who minded his own business,’ Nemec said. ‘He grew jade plants and would give jade plants for gifts.’
‘It just seems fishy,’ Nick told South Dakota News Watch. ‘It just seems like they’re looking for an excuse to make it less than it was.’
Boever had struggled with a bipolar disorder and worked irregularly as a nurse’s assistant, said Victor Nemec, another cousin. Though in recent days, when the two cousins worked together on Victor Nemec’s farm, Boever had been doing well.
Nemec believed Boever had never met or interacted with the attorney general.
Read Jason Ravnsborg’s full statement below: