Gackle man pleads guilty to negligent homicide in combine death

Ryan Storbeck was accused of negligently causing the death of a South African man

Ryan Storbeck.jpg
Ryan Storbeck
Contributed / Stutsman County Correctional Center

JAMESTOWN — A 42-year-old Gackle man who was accused of driving a combine while under the influence has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a Class C felony, in the death of a South African man on Sept. 6.

At a change of plea hearing Tuesday, March 7, Ryan Christopher Storbeck also pleaded guilty to false reports to law enforcement or other security officials, a Class A misdemeanor, and driving under the influence of alcohol, a Class B misdemeanor. He will be sentenced April 5.

Storbeck faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Storbeck was accused of negligently causing the death of Johannes Steenberg, 57, a South African man who had a temporary residence in rural Gackle, giving false information about how much alcohol he consumed, and driving a combine while intoxicated.

According to court documents, Storbeck called 911 at about 5:40 p.m. Sept. 6 to report that he had run someone over with a combine and the victim was dead. It appeared Steenberg’s head was crushed between the combine’s header and a wheel of a grain cart, court documents say.


Storbeck told authorities that he did not see Steenberg by the grain cart while unloading a hopper of flax into the grain cart, and he continued combining, court documents say. Storbeck later called another hired man to check on Steenberg because he didn’t see him in the tractor. The hired man found Steenberg near a grain cart tire.

Storbeck told authorities that he didn’t consume any alcohol and eventually took a breath test, which showed he was impaired, court documents say. He had a blood-alcohol content of 0.11% at 8:30 p.m. and 0.09% about 50 minutes later. The legal limit is 0.08%.

Storbeck told authorities that “they usually start with a 30 pack (of beer) and today they ran out before they started combining,” court documents say.

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