The friends of a Dickinson man who died when he was struck by lightning over the weekend will remember him for his dedication to the trails of western North Dakota and the time he spent sharing them with his family.
Kyle Brierley, 33, went racing the Maah Daah Hey with his kids on Saturday and was gearing up for a prestigious mountain bike event next weekend in Colorado. Still, he managed to squeeze in some volunteer work Sunday morning sprucing up the trails at the Schnell Recreation Area near Richardton.
It appears he was loading his equipment back into his pickup when a storm rolled through, said Lt. Eldon Mehrer of the Stark County Sheriff’s Office. First responders found Brierley’s body behind his vehicle, and a medical examiner confirmed he had died from a lightning strike.
“It’s one of those so unfortunate, rare, freak occurrences,” Mehrer said.
Brierley had recently received a coveted spot in the lottery for the upcoming Leadville 100, a high-altitude mountain bike race through the Colorado Rockies.
“It just says so much about what kind of a guy he was that, so close to his Leadville 100 race, he would take time to go out and do trail work with the small amount of spare time he had, being a father and working full time,” said Nick Ybarra, who, along with his wife, Lindsey, runs a series of mountain bike and trail running events in the North Dakota Badlands.
Brierley and his family moved to North Dakota from Utah several years ago. He was trained as an electrician and worked as an automation technician in the western North Dakota oil fields, according to his obituary.
The Ybarras said he started mountain biking to get back in shape. The three met when Brierley participated in the Maah Daah Hey 100 race in 2016. He finished in the Top 10.
“I remember after I called him up, he whispered to me, ‘Hey, this is my first mountain bike race ever,'” Nick said.
Brierley, his wife Bev and kids Ella, 11, and Maddux, 7, quickly became familiar faces on the trails. The Ybarras started a GoFundMe page to help the family with expenses.
On Saturday, he rode with Ella in the 13-mile race along the Maah Daah Hey. When the two finished, he turned around and made his way back along the trail, holding open gates to help other riders pass.
But really, he was looking to meet up with his son, who was attempting a longer race distance along the rugged terrain.
“He went back out on the course to bring Maddux in,” Lindsey said. “Maddux was the youngest one to finish our 25-mile race.”
The Ybarras recalled another memorable race, when Brierley took on the Maah Daah Hey 150 in 2016 not long after his first competition.
That day, Bev drove his support vehicle. When he met up with her at a checkpoint along the trail, one of her tires had gone flat.
“He had to stop his race and change the flat tire on the car, get back on his bike and keep racing,” Nick said. “He never complained. He was always smiling, always positive. He never took himself or the races too seriously.”