Hanford motorcyclist critical after hitting a deer

Deer are plentiful on the Hanford nuclear reservation in the fall, creating a hazard for drivers.
Deer are plentiful on the Hanford nuclear reservation in the fall, creating a hazard for drivers. Courtesy Department of Energy

A Hanford worker was critically hurt Sunday evening when his motorcycle hit a deer on the nuclear reservation.

Family members posted on social media that he is not expected to survive, but law enforcement and coroner officials have not confirmed that.

Mikhaill “Mike” Stewart was going north on Route 4 South, a road that leads to the Wye Barricade secure entrance to the Hanford nuclear reservation just north of Richland.

He was on the nuclear site — just passing Energy Northwest’s nuclear power plant before the Wye Barricade — when he hit the deer, said Rae Moss, spokeswoman for Mission Support Alliance.

Mission Support Alliance is a Department of Energy contractor at Hanford, and Stewart is an employee there working on water utilities.

A GoFundMe site set up by Stewart’s family said he “was doing what he loved, riding his motorcycle.”

He suffered head injuries in the crash despite wearing a helmet. Doctors performed surgery but were not expected to save him, said the post.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after a Hanford worker was seriously injured when his motorcycle hit a deer Sunday evening. Courtesy Benton County Sheriff's Office

It said he has a wife and two young children. Other members of his family also work at Hanford.

In just six hours the fundraising site received $13,600 in donations. Money raised will go toward his funeral and to help his family, the post said.

Stewart was on his way to work when he hit the deer at 6:15 p.m.

The motorcycle landed on him, and other drivers who stopped when he crashed tried to pull it off him, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

Stewart was unresponsive when medics arrived and took him to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, according to a sheriff’s office Facebook post.

The sheriff’s office said he was not riding recklessly or speeding.

Each autumn Hanford workers are warned to drive carefully because of the many deer on the site and crossing Highway 240 as it cuts through Hanford.

Fall is the most dangerous season for collisions with animals because Hanford workers are commuting at dawn and dusk. Visibility is reduced and it’s the time animals tend to be on the move.

More than half of all crashes involving deer and elk on Hanford occur in October and November, according to Mission Support Alliance.

It offered these tips:

Be alert for deer and elk at dawn and dusk.

Scan the shoulders of the road and slow down if you see animals. Assume others are nearby.

Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you to leave extra space for stopping.

Be aware of other drivers braking, because it may mean there are animals near the road ahead.

Honk your horn if you see a deer or elk on the road.

Use a car’s bright lights when possible. Dim the brights if you spot a deer or elk to avoid blinding the animal and causing it to freeze.

Don’t approach an animal that has been hit, even if it appears to be dead.

The law requires any collision with a deer or elk off site be reported to local or state police.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533; @HanfordNews