A well-known longtime correctional deputy at the California Men’s Colony was killed Monday afternoon after crashing his dirt bike on a private trail while practicing for an upcoming out-of-state dirt bike race, officials said Tuesday.
Larry Dean McCracken, 61, of Atascadero was pronounced dead at the scene, which was within a private network of trails in a rural area north of Wellsona Road and east of North Star Lane in Paso Robles.
California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Seebart said McCracken was riding a 1975 Yamaha dirt bike south on a private trail sometime between 12:45 p.m. and 5 p.m.
He was riding at an unknown speed without a helmet, Seebart said, when his bike ran into a large hole that was partially obscured by brush. McCracken was thrown from the bike and suffered fatal injuries.
A passerby on a walk came across the scene and reported the crash, and emergency crews pronounced McCracken dead at 6:37 p.m.
The investigation remained ongoing Tuesday afternoon, but the CHP does not believe that drugs or alcohol played a factor in the crash.
McCracken was a 16-year veteran of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said Monica Ayon, a correctional lieutenant at the California Men’s Colony who worked with McCracken since he joined prison staff as a correctional deputy 14 years ago.
Ayon said that McCracken, standing 6 foot 5 inches tall and known for his infectious smile, was a larger than life presence at the facility, well-loved by staff and inmates alike.
“He was a mountain of a man,” Ayon said. “The epitome of the gentle giant.”
Ayon said that after McCracken graduated from the corrections academy in 1998, he spent two years as a correctional deputy at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad before joining staff at CMC in January 2001.
“There was always a smile on his face and he genuinely cared about the job he did,” she added. “I don’t think he had an enemy in the world.”
Ayon said McCracken had just completed building his “dream home” in Atascadero. A dirt bike racing enthusiast, he was practicing for an upcoming out-of-state race at the time of his death, she said.
The mood among CMC staff has been somber since news of the crash, Ayon said.
“He will be greatly missed,” she said.