David Meligan, warden for the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, was killed Saturday in a motorcycle accident near Virginia City.
Meligan was test driving a 2001 Yamaha motorcycle along Highway 341, known as the Truck Route, between Silver City and Virginia City, when he lost control of the bike. Meligan died at the scene of what was believed to be massive chest trauma, said Storey County firefighter Rob Du Fresne.
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Patrick McGill said he expected an autopsy would be conducted as is typical in fatal accidents. No alcohol is believed to be involved, he said.
Department of Prisons Director Jackie Crawford described the 41-year-old Meligan as "a shining star in our department, he was competent and capable. We're just stunned.
"We're flying our flags at half staff. We're planning a memorial service in the next few days for the department - we're family. I'm just devastated. Dave was just an outstanding warden and administrator."
Meligan, a Carson City resident, was named warden at the correctional center in Carson City three years ago. Crawford said he rose through the ranks having started with the department as a correctional officer in about 1986.
According to witness Bill Daughtry, of Reno, Meligan was traveling behind two other motorcyclists at about 2:45 p.m. when he careened out of control hitting the guard rail on the southbound side of the road. Daughtry was traveling south on the highway when he met the three northbound motorcyclists as they came around a sharp curve.
"They were coming around the corner, and he was on the outside when he lost control," Daughtry said. "First the bike hit and then he hit. The bike bounced to the opposite side of the road, but he stopped when he hit the guard rail."
Paramedics worked to revive the cyclist, but eventually called off their efforts. Officials from the Storey County Sheriff's Department, Storey County Fire Department, CareFlight, and the Central Lyon County Ambulance responded to the accident.
Ed Flagg, president of the Nevada Corrections Association, said Meligan made numerous improvements at the correctional center and worked with him on various capacities to better the position of correctional officers in the state.
"I don't know what to say," Flagg said. "Did we agree? On some things. Did we argue? Yes. It was a professional thing - it's the way labor and the administration do things. But he was well respected from my point as president of the association.
"You could sit down and talk to him and he would listen to you. If you convinced him and had the right arguments he would change his mind."
Flagg said he will be missed for many things, including the little morale boosters and other things hard to pinpoint during his three years as the warden.
"You could talk to him, that was the major thing," Flagg said. "We have 1,200 convicted felons we deal with everyday. Sometimes you just need to sit down and talk. From my standpoint he was a friend and a colleague. He will be missed."
Meligan also had a small part asw a prison guard in Tom Selleck's movie "An Innocent Man," which was filmed at the Nevada State Prison in 1989.
Reporter Susie Vasquez contributed to this story.