NEAR HIGHMORE, S.D (NewsNation Now) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he was “not drinking alcohol” and didn’t think he had hit a person in a Saturday night crash that killed one person, Ravnsborg said in a new statement released Monday night.
Family members, including the victim’s wife Jennifer Boever, confirmed to NewsNation affiliate KELOLAND News that 56-year-old Joe Boever of Highmore, South Dakota was killed in the crash.
“Why did my husband lie in a ditch for 22 hours? Why were no alarms sounded off over here when the accident happened? I mean we have no answers yet. And right now I’m just raw and numb, I just lost the man of my life,” Jennifer Boever told NewsNation reporter Dan Santella.
The first-term attorney general said he was returning from attending a Republican Party fundraiser Saturday night. Ravnsborg said he did not drink before, during or after the event. Shortly after leaving, Ravnsborg said his vehicle hit what he believed was a large animal. He said used his cellphone flashlight to investigate and call 911 to report the crash.
Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek also surveyed the area when he arrived, according to Ravnsborg. With his vehicle badly damaged and the nearest tow service needing to travel from Pierre to the scene, Volek offered to let Ravnsborg drive his personal vehicle back to Pierre.
“At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” Ravnsborg writes in his statement.
Sunday morning, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff drove back to return Volek’s vehicle. After getting gas, they stopped at the crash scene where the body of Joe Boever was found.
“As I walked along the shoulder of the road, I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway. My chief of staff and I check and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased,” Ravnsborg said in the statement.
Boever drove into a ditch on that same stretch of road and hit a bale of hay early Saturday night, according to his cousin Victor Nemec. Boever called Nemec, who gave him a ride back home.
“The next morning, I called him a couple of times, didn’t get any answer on his cellphone, so I decided to drive into town and stop at his house,” Nemec said.
He couldn’t find Boever and reported him as missing. According to the family, they received a call to identify a body 22 hours after the crash.
The attorney general said he immediately headed to the Sheriff’s home to report the body. Volek returned to the scene with Ravnsborg, instructed the AG he would handle the investigation and asked Ravnsborg return home.
Ravnsborg said he wanted to provide the new statement Monday to “try and dispel some of the rumor and innuendo that are being spread in the wake of this tragedy.”
Previously, very little information was released about the crash. Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) delivered a brief statement on Sunday night to local media, Ravnsborg later issued a written statement.
I am shocked and filled with sorrow following the events of last night. As Governor Noem stated, I am fully cooperating with the investigation and I fully intend to continue do so moving forward. At this time I offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to the family.Jason Ravnsborg statement on Sunday night
Noem said South Dakota Highway Patrol will run the investigation and the Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price will oversee the investigation and report directly to the governor.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also participating in the investigation. The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which would normally be involved, is part of the attorney general’s office. It is standard practice to request an outside agency to conduct an investigation when there may be a conflict of interest.
Ravnsborg has had six speeding tickets in South Dakota and two in Iowa, according to KELOLAND News.
Ravnsborg’s Chief of staff Tim Bormann said the attorney general drinks occasionally, but has made it a practice not to drink at the Lincoln Day events.
“I didn’t see him with anything but a Coke,” said state Sen. Brock Greenfield, who also attended the dinner.
The accident prompted some to recall a 2003 incident in which Bill Janklow, a former four-term South Dakota governor who was a congressman at the time, ran a stop sign at a rural intersection and killed a motorcyclist. Janklow was convicted of manslaughter, prompting his resignation.
NewsNation affiliate KELO and The Associated Press contributed to this report.