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Five die in RV at biker fest

By ERIK SCHELZIG - Associated Press
September 19, 2011

Clarksville Police survey the trailer where five people were found dead Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011 in Clarksville, Tenn., at the Clarksville Speedway. The deaths brought an abrupt halt to the celebration of the state's largest toy run for needy children, which was hosted Saturday at the speedway by Bikers Who Care. (AP Photo/The Leaf-Chronicle, Luke Thomspson)

Three men and two women at a Tennessee biker festival to raise money for needy children died in a recreational vehicle when fumes from a generator leaked into the camper, an organizer for the event said.

Police were investigating the deaths but said no foul play was suspected. Two of the men worked security into the early morning hours Sunday during the festival’s party, which featured motorcycle drag races, live music and bikini and tattoo contests. The charity’s website said there was free beer.

Bill Langford, the director of the event Bikers Who Care, was puzzled over the deaths at the Clarksville Speedway.

“Most of them didn’t get to bed until four o’clock in the morning, and most of those people didn’t go in that trailer at the same time to go to bed,” he said. “I just find that kind that of strange. Why didn’t they notice?”

It appears a small storage hatch on the RV did not close properly, allowing fumes from the generator to leak inside the vehicle, Langford said.

The gases were so bad in the camper that the bikers who found the bodies were taken to a hospital after feeling dizzy and light-headed, Langford said. They all had high amounts of carbon monoxide in their systems, he said.

Langford said the bikers’ group was like a family and he was close friends with the people who had died. He identified them as a married couple, another couple and one of the men’s co-workers.

The married couple had 8-month-old twins. The man was a truck driver and his wife was a school teacher.

All of the victims were from the Clarksville area about 40 miles northwest of Nashville.

“Me and these guys had a meeting every Thursday of the year,” Langford said. “These three guys are three of my closest friends.”

By Sunday evening, the crowd of a couple of thousand people had thinned and only a handful of people remained, sitting around campfires. Nearby, portable toilets were still out and a party tent was still up with a large American flag on top of it.

Photos from the festival showed yellow police tape around the camper and tents that had been set up close by. The camper was later towed away.

Police would not say if carbon monoxide poisoning played a role and said the cause of the deaths would have to be determined by a coroner. The identities of the dead were also being withheld until family members could be told.

Langford said the bikers collect toys for needy children and raised funds for Camp Rainbow, a summer camp for seriously ill children at Land Between the Lakes recreation area on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. They also contribute to the Buddy Ball sports league for children with mental and physical disabilities.

The cornerstone of the event was a toy run, where the bikers lined up at the speedway and rode through town. Organizers said they gathered four truckloads of toys.

It was the 30th year of the event. Langford promised the festival would be held again.

“It’s going to be hard for next year or two,” he said. “But we’re going to keep doing what we do for the kids.”

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Online:

www.bikerswhocare.org

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Associated Press writer Rebecca Yonker in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.