Rhiannon absolutely loved motorcycling, especially in the mountains. Her and her friends would get together all the time and travel around at Mach 10 snaking around curvy roads or up in the mountains - or sometimes just stunting.
The following is what I gathered from talking to the people that were there, people that know, the coroner, and the State Trooper that handled the case.
She had met up with Nate and James at a gas station just off Interstate 85 on Exit 101 and Plemmons Road near Spartanburg, SC so they could show her how to get to the Bar-B-Q they were to attend that beautiful Sunday. As a rule she never went last, but a more important rule was to have at least a couple of riders in front of you when riding an unfamiliar road because that way you could see where they were going, see where they applied their brakes, and basically get a feel for the road.
Nate was first, and then James, and Rhiannon was last. They left the station and the road bent into a sweeping right hand curve that suddenly cranked a bit harder to the right before reversing and turning to the left and then coming to a stop sign. The speed limit was 25, but Nate took that first curve at about 70. James was going a bit faster (maybe 80) and when he tapped his brakes his back tire locked up and skidded out to the left. Now, James is a stunt rider, and has a good idea how to handle bikes when they're sliding, so he just countered, and continued on. He thinks Rhiannon saw that and fixated on that instead of watching the curve and the road ahead.
Her first mistake was that she was too near the center line (only about a foot to the right of it) when she should have been tucked tight into the corner. The officer figured she was going at least 60 when she hit the brakes and dropped her bike. Her second mistake was that she hung on. The rule is that if you fall, you should let go of your bike because the more distance between it and you the better. You could see the black skid marks from the tires, where the frame sliders scraped along the road, and then where the front tire caught the pavement which would have flipped the bike and catapulted her into the drainage hole on the outside of the curve. The drainage hole is probably set down from road level about 3 feet and is about 6 feet deep and 12 feet across. There's a big cement culvert at the bottom along with some rocks. She was thrown into the embankment on the far side of the hole and the bike came right in after her. It had to hit her hard because she was in a pretty sorry state. Her helmet probably came off when she hit the embankment and was thrown out into the field. She suffered massive head injuries and internal damage - she took such a hard impact that her aorta was actually severed. The officer said you could tell by the way she was laying that her pelvis was broken, and her ankle and arm, and her shoulder was dislocated.
Well, Nate and James didn't realize at first that Rhiannon didn't make the corner. They got to the stop sign and waited a bit - and then went back to look for her. They had only gone a short distance from the station where they met, and the sides of the road were open - it was a field on one side and a hillside going up on the other - they didn't see her anywhere. They finally saw her helmet about 40 feet out in the field, and then discovered the drainage hole with her and her bike at the bottom.
She was awake, but disoriented. James asked her if she could hear him, and she said yes. He then went on to assure her that help was on the way, and that she would be OK.
The EMT people arrived and immediately called for a helicopter to take her to Spartanburg General about 5 minutes away. She was not moving her lower extremities at all, but was otherwise combative which is very indicative of head injuries. A comforting thought is that when a brain is injured, it swells, and that blocks sensations of pain. They cut off her brand new leather riding jacket that she had just picked up the day before, and prepared her for the flight to the hospital.
James and Nate were told not to come to the hospital, so they gathered her stray belongings and went over to the Bar-B-Q (only a couple of miles away) to wait for a phone call telling them they could come to visit her at the hospital. They also made arrangements for her bike to be picked up (there didn't seem to be a lot of damage to it), and called her roommate, Ryan.
Ryan called Mike, and the two of them waited at the hospital.
They worked on her for about 45 minutes, but there was nothing they could do. With a severed aorta, she was probably gone already at the crash site. The family was finally notified, and then the news of her death was released.
Things are a bit of a blur for me at this point, but I think we all fell to our knees in shock....
It was such a freak accident you know God's hand had to be involved. If she had dropped her bike 3 feet in either direction, she would have missed the drainage hole entirely and simply slid out into the field, where she could have walked away.
God apparently has other plans for her and since I have a very strong faith this has not even made me ask why. I feel this may be a way for everyone that knew her to realize that there is a greater power than themselves. You must put your life in the Lord's hands and trust in Him.
Rhiannon was baptized by full immersion in the name of Jesus Christ in 1991 when she was 11 years old. She had a background in the Church of Christ, and even though I know that she was not attending church at this time, I also know that the Lord knows your heart, and I find comfort in knowing that she is with Him now. No one expects to die when they're young - but you should consider the possibility since no one is ever given the guarantee of a long life, even though it's human nature to expect it.