A prominent local businessman was critically injured yesterday during a rigorous bike ride at Mount Rainier, a close friend has confirmed to The News Tribune.
Steve Albers, president of Tacoma-based insurance company Albers & Co., was hurt during The Ramrod, an annual event in which riders attempt to make it around Mount Rainier in one day.
In addition to being an athlete and outdoorsman, Albers is deeply involved in civic life. He has served on the boards of Tacoma Goodwill, the Pierce County Library and United Way among others.
Ray Tennison, longtime Tacoma businessman and friend of Albers, said this morning that Albers had “a very serious accident in the race at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. He had serious trauma to the brain.”
Albers, 60, is being cared for at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Tennison said.
According to Albers’ biography on the company website, he and his wife, Donna, are new grandparents. Tennison said Albers has two grown children from a previous marriage.
Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day (RAMROD) is a 152-mile bicycle ride that begins and ends in Enumclaw and winds through Eatonville, Ashford and over Cayuse Pass.
The ride is not a race and is held on open roads with riders challenged by 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. The riders face speedy descents on windy roads in Mount Rainier National Park. It is the only organized ride allowed in the park.
On July 21, the Redmond Cycling Club, which sponsors the ride, published an online safety warning that read “Due to road construction … dangerous conditions on the Stevens Canyon and Backbone ridge descents.”
The warning mentioned three sections of the ride where the asphalt road was interrupted by gravel sections.
Organizers dedicated this year’s ride to Margaret Anderson, a park ranger who was shot and killed near Paradise on Jan. 1.
My colleague Craig Hill and I are working to learn more about what happened during the event. We’re attempting to contact Ramrod organizers, and will post any updates here.
UPDATE, 12:05 p.m., from Craig Hill:
Chuck Young, chief ranger for Mount Rainier National Park, said Friday that the accident took place on the west side of Box Canyon. This would have been during a downhill section of the ride following a rest stop at Paradise. This was not one of the three sections of road that was under construction.
Park rangers, ride officials and an emergency room doctor and nurse participating in the event responded to the accident.
An American Medical Response ambulance, on scene as required by the club’s special use permit with the park, was used to transport Albers. He was then flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle by Airlift Northwest.
Young says there have been some accidents during RAMROD’s 29-year history. He said the park is investigating the accident and will meet with the Redmond Cycling Club to determine “if anything can be done to prevent accidents like this in the future.”
“But we certainly are not talking about cancelling the ride in the future,” he said. “I have to compliment the organizers. They always do a good job of preparing the riders but this happened anyway.”
Under the special use permit the park issues to the club, ride officials are required to take several steps to improve safety. Among them: the ride can’t be staged on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays when automobile traffic peaks; the club must pay for extra rangers to be on duty during the ride; they must post monitors along the route, have an ambulance on standby and brief the riders about safety before the ride; and the field must be limited to 800 people.
The waiting list for the ride is often longer than the list of participants.
The permit also requires ride organizers to supply portable toilets in the park and establish a communication system for the event.
The historical roads in Mount Rainier National Park are narrower than standard roads making them sometimes challenging to navigate.