South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says he discovered the body of the pedestrian he hit the morning after he crashed his car into what he thought was a deer while on his way home from a GOP dinner.
Ravnsborg shared this in a nearly two-page statement on South Dakota Attorney General letterhead that details his account of the Sept. 12 crash on U.S. Highway 14 that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever of Highmore, South Dakota.
"I'm deeply saddened by the tragic nature of these events and my heartfelt condolences go out to the Boever family," he said in the statement.
Ravnsborg, who was elected in 2018, didn't plan to comment on the crash until the investigation is completed, but he issued the statement Monday night after "many rumors and stories" were told that "do not represent a full and factual account of what happened."
Forum News Service reports his statement was sent to media via his campaign email address just after 10 p.m. on Monday, not through the normal media distribution from his office.
Ravnsborg's statement includes unconfirmed details that haven't been shared by police or investigators.
According to the statement, Ravnsborg attended the Spink County Lincoln Day Dinner in Redfield, South Dakota, during which he didn't drink any alcohol.
On his way back to Pierre, shortly after leaving Highmore, he hit something "that I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer)," but didn't see what it was, the statement says. He says stopped his vehicle, called 911 to report the crash and looked around to see what he had hit, but nothing in the area indicated what it was.
"All I could see were pieces of my vehicle laying on and around the roadway. Because it was dark and I didn't have a flashlight, I used my cell phone flashlight to survey the ditch but couldn't see anything," the statement says.
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek responded to the scene that night, the statement said. Neither of them thought he had hit a person with his car.
His car was too damaged to drive, so a tow truck was called to haul it away. But because it would take hours for it to arrive, Sheriff Volek allowed Ravnsborg to use his personal vehicle to go home to Pierre – the sheriff drove Ravnsborg to his home, where he picked up the vehicle and drove home, the statement said.
At about 8 a.m. Sunday, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff Tim Bormann left Pierre to bring the sheriff's vehicle back. During the drive, they went past the crash scene again, so they stopped to see if the animal he hit was in the ditch.
"As I walked along the shoulder of the road I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway," Ravnsborg said. "My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased."
Ravnsborg said he "immediately" drove to Sheriff Volek's home and told him what happened. They both returned to the scene of the crash, and at that point, the sheriff told him to go home and he'd handle the investigation, the statement said.
"I’ve been cooperating fully with the investigation and have agreed to a search of both of my cell phones, provided a blood draw, and have given the investigators the names of anyone at the dinner who can confirm that I was not drinking alcohol at any time during the event. I also sat down with the agents investigating this matter and have provided them with a full face to face interview answering any and all questions they have of me," he said.
To conclude his statement, Ravnsborg reiterated that he shared these details to dispel some of the rumors about the crash and he will make himself available for questions once the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation finish their investigation.
"I have full confidence in the thoroughness of the job being done" in the investigation, and he believes it'll answer most of the questions people may have about the incident.
Officials release few details
Few details about the crash have been released by officials. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem first reported Ravnsborg was involved in a fatal crash with a pedestrian on Sunday night, but didn't share any details.
Then on Monday, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety issued a news release that said Ravnsborg, 44, of Pierre, was driving a 2011 Ford Taurus when he was involved in a crash about a mile west of Highmore, South Dakota, at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
He reported to the Hyde County Sheriff's Office that he'd been involved in a car-deer crash, the release said, adding that the next morning Boever's body was discovered at the scene.
Boever's cousins, brothers Nick and Victor Nemec, told the Rapid City Journal he was hit while walking to his disabled vehicle that he'd crashed into a ditch and hay bale that morning.
They told the paper they're upset at how long it took officials to ask them to identify Boever's body (they were contacted Sunday night), and are afraid officials won't share the truth about the crash.
The Argus Leader reports the South Dakota Highway Patrol is leading the investigation into the crash and investigators from North Dakota are assisting in the investigation due to the conflict of interest created by the fact Ravnsborg as attorney general oversees the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation.