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  • Thu August 04 2005
  • Posted Aug 4, 2005
By KEVIN DOBBS REGISTER STAFF WRITER July 25, 2005 Michael Thomas Burke, 27, a native of Donnellson who was living and working in New York City, was killed early this morning when a tree limb fell on his tent as he and two friends camped in Sheldon authorities said. Burke, who apparently had been an unregistered participant in the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, was camping at a private residence when the accident occurred. Two companions in the tent were uninjured, said Sheldon Police Chief Lyle Bolkema. The tree limb fell about 1 a.m., Bolkema said, as high winds and heavy rainfall pounded Sheldon, the first overnight stop on the route of the 33rd event. Burke was declared dead at the scene by the O'Brien County medical examiner. A severe thunderstorm blew through Sheldon shortly after midnight. Strong winds and heavy rain caused extensive property damage knocked down trees. One tree fell on Burke's tent at about 1 a.m., RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz said. Sheldon city manager Scott Wynja said many but not all bikers staying at the campground were evacuated to a local school . He said local authorities were still gathering information about the storm's damage. Riders who stayed in Sheldon last night reported a violent storm. Craig Cooper, who is part of a support crew on the ride, said a canvas overhang that he had set up to shield his campsite from the sun was lifted out of the ground by high winds and thrown through the window of his car. Merlin Johnson, a rider from Iowa, said winds swirled around the tent in which he was sleeping and would have blown away if he hadn't been it. Juskiewicz said that, despite the "unfortunate" death, the ride continued on today as planned. "There's a long day of riding ahead, so people packed up and got going early," he said. "People are going on."

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