The future of upstart American motorcycle manufacturer U.S. Highland is uncertain following the deaths of company President Mats Malmberg, Chief Operating Officer Chase Bales and Chief Financial Officer Damian Riddoch, in a plane crash near Tulsa, Oklahoma, July 10. The three men were returning home from a business meeting in Detroit at the time of the accident.
The twin-engine Cessna was originally scheduled to land at Jones Riverside Airport, but pilot Bales requested permission to land at Tulsa International Airport when the plane ran low on fuel. The plane then crash-landed in a densely wooded area less than a mile north of the runway. Bales and Riddoch were pronounced dead at the scene; Malmberg died later in the hospital.
U.S. Highland had just completed construction of a new factory in Mounds, Oklahoma, and was starting production of its first customer bikes with deliveries scheduled for August. The exclusive, high-end machines, powered by extremely lightweight and powerful singles and V-twins of Malmberg's design, displayed excellent craftsmanship and exhilarating performance.
We do not yet know the fate of the company, or of its 30-plus employees. No official plans for succession have yet been released. The company's stock value fell by 44 percent in over-the-counter trading on the news of the crash.
Malmberg, 41, had recently relocated from Sweden to Oklahoma and is survived by his wife and two children. Oklahoman Bales, 51, is survived by a wife and two children. Riddoch, 37, also from Oklahoma, is survived by a wife and four children.
This is a terrible tragedy, and a severe blow to one of the most exciting recent developments in the American motorcycle industry.