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'Great rodeo enthusiast': '09 Rodeo/Rancher of the Year passes away at farm in tractor-related incident

Thorris Sandvick, the 2009 Roughrider Commission Rodeo/Rancher of the Year, is seen at his ranch near Killdeer in this June 2009 file photo. Sandvick died Monday in a tractor-related accident.

Killdeer is mourning the loss of native son and 2009 Roughrider Commission Rodeo/Rancher of the Year Thorris Sandvick, who is fondly remembered as a rodeo enthusiast and a good man by those who knew him.

Sandvick was born near Killdeer and attended country school and Killdeer High School. At the time of his death, he lived on his farm north of Killdeer.

He and his wife, Lynell, were married in 1955 and had six children.

The couple spent a year in Montana before they took over Lynell's family farm in 1956. They also started Badlands Trail Rides in 1972.

Family friend LoAnn Wegh of Dickinson said she was stunned when she received word of Sandvick's passing late Monday.

"It is a tragedy," she said. "He has a wonderful family that was always huge into the rodeo."

Dunn County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Ron Krivoruchka said the sheriff's department was dispatched between 9 and 9:30 a.m. Monday to a farm north of Killdeer, where they found Sandvick, 81, on his shop floor.

Krivoruchka said the accident is still under investigation, but it appears that Sandvick had been working on his tractor. It is unclear at this time if he was run over by the tractor or if he fell off of it.

Sandvick's connection to the rodeo crowd is how he built a friendship with Rick Thompson of Dickinson almost 30 years ago.

"He was a great rodeo enthusiast," Thompson said of Sandvick. "He was avid in all aspects of the rodeo, so I would see him everywhere. He was a great advocate for the rodeo."

When Roughrider Days Commissioner Lori Vernon received a call Tuesday about Sandvick's death, Vernon said it turned into "a sad and unbelievable day."

"He was a good man," she said. "We'd known each other through the Roughrider Commission and he was always an avid supporter of the rodeo, from high school to professional. He was thoughtful, always willing to help others and he loved doing his farm work. He will be missed."

Vernon had known Sandvick for more than a decade. She said he was a most deserving pick to be honored as Rancher of the Year three years ago.

"We look for someone that portrays the cowboy way of life and has an interest in rodeo," she said. "Given his lifestyle, the commission felt he was a perfect candidate. You would see him at all of the rodeos, and he always came out in support of the Badlands circuit. Boy, did that man love the rodeo. It was in his family."

Sandvick is the second victim of a tractor-related death in Killdeer in the last two weeks.

Craig Skaar, 39, died Aug. 15 when he was getting out of his tractor, got caught on the wheel and was run over.

Attempts to reach Lynell Sandvick and the couple's daughter, Twila Benz, were unsuccessful.