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Motorcyclist killed during benefit ride for crash victim’s family

Randy and Rhonda Thill after a ride to Hudson, Wis., on September 6, 2014. (Photo courtesy Rhonda Thill)

By Maja Beckstrom, St. Paul Pioneer Press

A fundraiser to help the family of a man killed in a motorcycle accident ended tragically Saturday afternoon when a motorcycle passenger was killed in a head-on collision in Oakdale.

The Minnesota State Patrol identified the victim as Tonia Stocking, 49, of Cottage Grove, Minn. She died at the scene, the State Patrol's report said. The motorcycle driver, Steven Silva, 53, of Eagan, was seriously injured. Neither was wearing a helmet.

More than 170 riders had gathered for a group ride to raise money for the family of Randy Thill, a St. Paul man who died when he lost control of his Harley-Davidson and crashed in June.

Two motorcycle clubs' successful search for Thill's wedding ring in the roadside weeds were reported in the Pioneer Press and went viral.

On Saturday, many of those same people gathered to raise money for Randy's wife, Rhonda Thill, and their three children. Just after 3 p.m., the motorcycles were heading south on Hwy. 120 when a northbound Ford Explorer veered across the center lane straight into a group of riders.

The driver of a second bike, Frank Turchin, 46, of Cottage Grove, was not injured. His passenger Karla Turchin, 52 of Cottage Grove had injuries that were not life threatening.

Both lanes of Hwy. 120 near 45th Street North were closed while officers from five law enforcement agencies responded to the chaotic scene. The State Patrol is heading the investigation.

The driver of the Explorer, 22-year-old Micaah Rostron of Oakdale, was not injured. According to the patrol's report, Rostron "overcorrected" and alcohol was not a factor in the accident.

On Saturday evening, several dozen motorcycles were parked outside St. Paul Saloon on Hudson Road in St. Paul, a popular biker bar where the ride had been scheduled to end. Inside the bar, silent auction bags wrapped in cellophane sat on a ping pong table and people clustered in somber groups, some still wearing their red "Riding with Randy" T-shirts. Rhonda Thill wiped tears from her eyes.

"This was a difficult benefit for her to begin with," said Emi Yokose of Woodbury, a friend of Rhonda Thill's and co-organizer of the fundraiser. "And now to lose a close friend is heart wrenching."

Yokose said the riders had planned a route for the fundraiser "poker run" with safety in mind, and riders wore reflective vests. Riders stopped at four bars and picked up a playing card at each location. Whoever had the best hand at the end would win a prize. The group was on its way from Macaluso's Roadhouse in Vadnais Heights to Duke's Pizza Bar and Grill in Oakdale when the accident occurred.

Earlier this week, the State Patrol announced that the number of people killed in motorcycle accidents so far this year had reached 47, surpassing the entire total from 2014.

(The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum Communications Company, which includes the Echo Press.)

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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