Community mourns Ammon man after tragic motorcycle crash in Yellowstone
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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — It’s been an emotional week for family and friends mourning Gregory Nebeker after he died in a motorcycle crash at Yellowstone National Park on Saturday.
“He was the one who would always have a good time, was the goofy uncle, and was the one you could go to if you had problems,” said Heidi Bluemel, Nebeker’s niece.
The 57-year-old crashed while following a bend in the road near Yellowstone Lake. No other vehicles were involved.
The news hit his family hard.
Bluemel says her family had a hard time believing the information because her grandfather was slipping away due to pancreatic cancer.
“When I got the phone call saying that Greg had passed away, I, like all my family members (was) saying, ‘No, you’re mistaken. Greg isn’t dead — you must be talking about Grandpa,'” Heidi says.
On Monday, days after Nebeker’s death, his father, Spencer, passed away.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t believe, and I still have a hard time accepting it because it was such a shock,” Heidi says.
Yellowstone officials confirmed to EastIdahoNews.com there was a death in a motorcycle crash on Saturday.
Friends of Nebeker were with him at the time of the wreck. David Pinegar, one of Nebeker’s dearest friends, says he was attending an annual sobriety ride along with 23 other riders. Nebeker and other riders had recovered through the services of Renaissance Ranch.
“We’d call him old Neb,” Pinegar says.
Pinegar is the founder of Renaissance Ranch, an organization that serves recovering drug addicts. Nebeker came to Pinegar’s office while seeking treatment for addiction to opiates.
“I have seen this guy rise from the bottom of the barrel to the top. He was doing so well. Today marks his two-year anniversary,” Pinegar says. “We’d been on a lot of rides together, but this year, Bear Tooth Pass, Sober Riders, the Brotherhood, we all came together. … It was probably the best ride to date.”
Pinegar says the day of the ride was beautiful, and the group had just finished lunch in Cody, Wyoming. Another rider and friend, Jason Stoddart, says the bikers gassed up and started back toward the east entrance of the park.
Stoddart decided to ride in the back of the pack “and just soak up the day. It was one of the most beautiful days it was perfect riding weather,” he says.
Not long into their ride, Stoddart saw his group off to the side of the road with cars and strangers approaching the scene to help. At the time, he wasn’t aware of what was happening.
“It was a frenzy,” Stoddart says. “Someone said it was Nebeker. It didn’t look good.”
Stoddart says medical personnel got to the scene quickly and those with Nebeker were doing all they could to save his life. He says it was hard to tell at the time if Nebeker had vitals or not.
“Everyone was working as if they could save him,” Stoddart says. “I think optimism just took over. … We gathered together and said a prayer … and asked for a miracle and really that the Lord’s will would be done.”
Pinegar says he was in the front of the group, about five bikes ahead of Nebeker. He saw medical vehicles zoom by in the opposite direction, and his heart sank. He was unsure if one of his bikers were hurt.
“As the organizer of the ride, I started feeling pretty heavy concern, but we still didn’t know anything,” Pinegar says.
When Pinegar heard the news for himself, he was shattered.
“My older brother came up on his bike. … He said, ‘It’s Greg, and he didn’t make it,’ and I just couldn’t believe it,” Pinegar says while sobbing. “We were so happy, I mean, I’d been with him at lunch. … I ran into the trees and just fell to the ground. I just couldn’t believe it was him, one of my best friends. ”
Pinegar says right after the crash, he had the urge to push his bike into the nearby lake, but immediately a familiar voice came into his mind.
“‘I don’t want you to do that, Davey.’ Greg called me Davey. ‘Davey boy,’ and he says, “You don’t stop riding because of this. That’s not what I want,'” Pinegar says. “I’m just heartbroken.”
Pinegar says after 13 years of sobriety rides, there’s never been an incident or issue.
“To have a fatality and to have it be Neb, I just … I pray for his family,” Pinegar says.
Pinegar says next year the sobriety ride will be dedicated to Nebeker, and all who’ve recovered from addiction are welcome. He says he hopes none of the riders present Saturday will quit riding because of what happened.
“It’s going to be the Greg Nebeker Memorial ride,” Pinegar says. “We want to make this a special thing to remember him.”
According to his obituary, Nebeker was born in Provo, Utah, lived in Hyrum, Utah, and then moved with his family to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where he lived for most of his life.
He graduated from Bonneville High School attended Ricks College, graduated summa cum laude from the University of Utah, and graduated at the top of his class at the Mayo Clinic.
He was married to Jill Nebeker and had three children. He was a nurse anesthetist and had a pain practice in town.
Funeral services for Nebeker will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, at the Quail Ridge 1st Ward, 2200 S. Stafford Drive. The family will visit with friends from 10 to 10:45 a.m. before services at the church. Burial will be in the Ammon Cemetery.
As a final message to her uncle, Bluemel adds:
“We love you. Everything will be OK, and we will take care of each other. We will continue to make you proud and go to all the Utah games that we signed up for and scream as loud as we can. We’ll live life to the fullest and have no regrets. We will wear your ‘Jesus sandals’ and walk barefoot in the sand. We will go zip lining in Hawaii, and rock out to Journey every day. … Most of all, we’ll move forward and always remember you.”