UPDATE: Motorcyclist going at least 100 mph dies after hitting pothole on Twin Cities freeway
A motorcyclist going at least 100 mph struck a pothole or a crack along a winter-worn stretch of a Minneapolis interstate and was thrown to his death, authorities said Wednesday.
Anand Baskaran, 30, of the Long Island community of East Northport, N.Y., hit the road hazard along eastbound Interstate 394 near Theodore Wirth Parkway at about 9:50 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
Baskaran was not wearing a helmet when he was found by emergency personnel, state safety officials said. However, witnesses reported seeing him wearing a helmet before the crash and one was later found at the scene.
While the Patrol reported that Baskaran is from New York, he worked at 3M in Maplewood as an information technology analyst, a company official said. Also indicating his relocation to Minnesota, state records show a couple of minor traffic violations months apart since late 2012 in the Twin Cities area.
State safety officials say that Baskaran's death is the second earliest in what they consider the motorcycle riding season, when winter nears its end. After a particularly cold and snowy winter, temperatures this week have climbed above freezing with no precipitation in the Twin Cities, though snow has fallen elsewhere in the state.
The temperature in Minneapolis was slightly above freezing and there was no rain or snow falling at the time of Baskaran's crash.
Three witnesses said that Baskaran and another motorcyclist were going at least 100 mph, and possibly as high as 120 mph, said Patrol Lt. Jason Bartell.
"We have one witness statement that the motorcycle hit a crack in the road and started to wobble ... It's really hard to come back from that," Bartell said at a news briefing. The Patrol's initial report on the incident described it as a pothole.
"It falls back to speed; it falls back to that unsafe, illegal speeding," Bartell said. "If you're driving at that speed, no matter what the road conditions are like, it's going to be tragic."
Bartell said there have been "no reports of road conditions being unsafe in that area."
The other motorcyclist "took off from the scene shortly after the crash" and has not been located yet, he said.
I-394 in both directions between downtown Minneapolis and Highway 100 was particularly vulnerable this winter to potholes because a thin asphalt overlay was peeling away. Crews have been patching up spots in recent weeks.
As efforts to fill in potholes continue, "people need to slow down and watch for them" Kent Barnard, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said Wednesday. "We will have a bumper crop of them this year."
Two weeks ago, MnDOT was out patching potholes on the westbound lanes of I-394. It was not immediately known about work on the eastbound lanes, a MnDOT spokeswoman said.
Originally built as a concrete freeway, I-394 drew noise complaints from adjacent Minneapolis neighborhoods.
The Legislature in the 1990s directed MnDOT to put down an asphalt mixture with a higher friction resistance to reduce tire noise, a state pavement engineer said in January.
The first layer was put down in 1996. When that wore out in 2004, MnDOT replaced it with a material that was stickier and gooier, allowing the agency to put on a thinner layer.
MnDOT said it has been that layer, scheduled to be replaced in 2015, that has been peeling away and creating the gaping craters.
Tuesday's crash came just as the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety began publicizing its 2014 motorcycle rider safety classes. Offered at 30 Minnesota state colleges and universities from April to October, instructors from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation offer training and education to "ride better, ride smarter and ride longer."
"Riders are taking to the roads because of the warm weather, and safety is critical, especially early in the riding season," the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
Bartell reminded motorists to be alert for motorcycle riders and check their rear-view mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes. For motorcyclists, they need "to operate safely and at a safe speed, not distracted, wearing safety equipment to prevent further injuries," he said. He also urged motorcyclists to be mindful of road hazards at this time of year, such as snow, ice and sand.
Preliminary reports show that 60 people were killed in motorcycle crashes in 2013. There were 55 motorcycle fatalities on Minnesota roads in 2012, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.