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Lightning strike kills Dickinson resident near Richardton

32-year-old Kyle Brierley, of Dickinson, was killed by a lightning strike near Richardton on Sunday, while conducting trail clean-up for the Bureau of Land Management.

A man who was struck by lightning at the Schnell Recreation Area east of Richardton on Sunday was killed, Stark County Sheriff's Office officials said.

The man was identified as 32-year-old Kyle Brierley, of Dickinson, who was found unresponsive and without a pulse by deputies following a report. Brierley was taken to the medical examiner’s office who confirmed that he had apparently died from cardiac arrest after he being struck by lightning while volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management.

Stark County Sheriff's Lieutenant Eldon Mehrer said that an investigation determined that Brierley had arrived to the Schnell Recreation Area early in the morning to do some mowing along some of the trails. Mehrer said that Brierley brought his own mower and gas and had spent a few hours and was in the process of loading his truck when the lightning struck him.

"When our deputies arrived he was found near the rear of his truck, face down and was deceased," Mehrer said.

Brierley was well known in the community for his assistance in managing off-road bicycle trails and had just competed with his children in the Maah Daah Hey 25 race the day prior.

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A Go Fund Me fundraiser, created to help with living expenses for his family while they process this tragedy, has raised $27,925 of their stated $50,000 goal. The creator of that fundraiser, Lindsey Ybarra of Watford City, N.D., spoke about the type of person that Brierley was.

"Of all the amazing people we have met through hosting races, Kyle is one of the most memorable and inspiring," Ybarra said. "I loved hearing him talk about how he used mountain biking to 'get back in shape.' I loved how the Maah Daah Hey 100 was his first race, ever, and he finished in the top 10 in the overall 100 miler."

Ybarra continued, "But most of all I loved how hard he worked to keep all his time well balanced by spending time riding with his family. He brought his dad out for trail work on the Maah Daah Hey; he coached his kids and stoked their passion for the sport, often sacrificing his own training to make memories with them. Kyle was an amazing and respectable guy who will be greatly missed."

The Stark County Sheriff's Office explained why lightning strikes can pose a more significant danger on the prairies than in other parts of the country.

"It's not uncommon for people to stay out and watch the storms," Mehrer said. "It's also not unusual for sporadic and sudden thunderstorms to creep up and affect a certain area."

Mehrer said that outdoor activity should cease and people should seek shelter when lightning and thunderstorms are in the area.

"Even if a thunderstorm may appear to be off in the distance, there is still a chance that lightning can strike," he said. "Even if you perceive the storm to be on the horizon, seek shelter and return after it passes."

According to the National Weather Service, there were 20 direct lightning fatalities in 2018, which was one of the lowest since record-keeping began in 1941. Between 2009 to 2018, on average, 27 people died each year from lightning strikes in the United States.

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The Stevenson Funeral Home webpage states that a celebration of life for Brierley will be held at a later date.

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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