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Prominent Minnetonka doctor dies in motorcycle crash

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A 71-year-old longtime behavioral pediatrician from Minnetonka, who had a lifesaving liver transplant last year, died in a motorcycle crash on an annual camping trip in South Dakota.

Dr. Ernest W. Swihart Jr., had taken off Thursday on a motorcycle ride in the Black Hills, but as his wife awaited his return, he crashed into a tree in a single-vehicle wreck near the entrance to Pactola Reservoir, the Star Tribune reports.

Swihart, who was wearing a helmet, had been headed down a hill, and into a curve, and he locked the brakes on the motorcycle, the South Dakota State Patrol reported. He lost control, went into a ditch and hit a tree, the patrol says.

Swihart in 1974 helped found South Lake Pediatrics in Minnetonka, of which he was still a member. He was also on the clinical faculty of the University of Minnesota and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Several parents whose children were treated by Swihart expressed their regrets on a CaringBridge page, one noting that the doctor was "our hero."

Almost exactly a year ago, Swihart had a liver transplant, after a two-year bout with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

His obituary says, "With a new young liver, he told Karen he felt younger & better than he had in many years. This last year was a thrilling time, taking time to enjoy his family, his projects, & his new life."

Swihart's Children's Health Network bio says his interests included sailing, wilderness exploration, woodworking, and a vintage Porsche. His obituary adds more, including trips to the Boundary Waters, restoration of vintage Jeep vehicles, windsurfing, downhill skiing and travels in Scandinavia.

Swihart in 1997 won a Minnesota Book Award as co-author of “The Manipulative Child.” In 2011, he appeared on ABC-TV’s “Nightline” as an expert in medicating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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