LAS VEGAS (FOX5) --- It was an annual trek for the past 15 years. A group of friends would gear up for a nearly 130-mile ride traversing parts of Nevada and California on bicycle. This year, the journey steeped in tradition turned deadly after a box truck collided with a troupe of riders Thursday morning, killing five of them and injuring three others just south of Boulder City, according to Nevada Highway Patrol.
About 9:39 a.m. on US-95 south near Mile Mark 36, police units were called to the fatal scene. According to NHP Trooper Travis Smaka, the bicycle enthusiasts were traveling together with a Subaru Hatchback "safety pickup" trailing behind. A handful of riders were trying to circumvent strong winds by coasting behind the safety vehicle, one of the surviving riders said. According to police, they were struck from behind by the truck "for reasons unknown" after it crossed into the bicycle lane.
"Just know that five of my really good friends are dead right now," said Michael Anderson, one of the cyclists. "We do this Nipton Loop every year, no problems. This year was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time."
Anderson, a retired Las Vegas police officer, served on the department for 22 years. He left the force in November. At the scene of the crash, Anderson provided an emotional testimony, grieving for his friends.
"I've seen stuff as a police officer in public service.... when it's your friends, I've never seen that," Anderson said. "It's the worst thing I could ever see in my life."
One victim was airlifted to UMC Trauma, while the driver of the safety vehicle was taken to Sunrise Hospital, according to Smaka. An additional rider sustained minor injuries due to debris, but was not transported. NHP troopers initially said four people were injured.
Following the crash, the driver, who was uninjured, remained on scene and cooperated with police.
NHP's commercial units were called to inspect the truck's brakes, tires and overall function following the crash. Impairment is not suspected.
The Nipton Loop begins at the M Resort on Las Vegas Boulevard. From there, riders take US-95 to Searchlight, Nevada up to Nipton, California. On the way back, riders take I-15 through Primm, pass Jean and return to the starting point.
The accompanying support and gear vehicle (SAG), provided spare tires, food and water to the group. The group of about 18 cyclists broke up into groups throughout the journey.
"There were about 7 riders behind the vehicle," Anderson said. "The speed of the box truck when it hit the riders that were behind our SAG vehicle, basically pinned them between the truck and the vehicle."
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.