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European edition, Tuesday, July 31, 2007

HEIDELBERG, Germany — A V Corps senior noncommissioned officer killed last month in a motorcycle accident was likely traveling twice the speed limit when he lost control on a curve and crashed, according to the U.S. Army Europe commander.

In the latest safety update from Gen. David McKiernan posted on the U.S. Army Europe Web site, the fatal crash happened after the NCO — referred to as a “master sergeant” in the update — “failed to negotiate a turn, dumped his bike and slid before hitting a solid object.”

The update also said the NCO “was estimated to have been traveling at 100 kilometers per hour,” or 62 mph, although the posted speed limit was 50 kilometers per hour.

Sgt. Maj. William Matlock was killed June 6 while riding his new, more powerful motorcycle on the road between Leimen and Gaiberg. He was pronounced dead at about 8 p.m. after hitting a traffic sign, public affairs officials said at the time.

Matlock, 43, was the father of two and just days away from ending his Germany tour, where he’d served as operations sergeant major for V Corps Special Troops Battalion. He planned to attend the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.

According to the update, called “McKiernan Sends,” Matlock was riding a top-of-the-line Suzuki GSX 1300R Hayabusa. The update said that Army Combat Readiness Center loss reports indicated “several fatal crashes involving this type of motorcycle” had recently occurred.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and public health officials, the largest increase in fatal motorcycle crashes in the past decade has been among riders 40 or older riding more powerful motorcycles. Half of fatalities involve problems negotiating a curve, according to the NHTSA.

“So far this fiscal year, we have had eight off-duty fatalities in comparison to one on-duty,” according to the USAREUR update. “This trend indicates that some soldiers — including some leaders — are still living in two different cultures and are not assessing the risks associated with their off-duty activities in the same manner as they do while on duty.”

The update said that although the number of fatalities was lower this year than at the same time last year, “our fatality rate is actually rising because the number of soldiers in Europe is decreasing.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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