The horrific crash that killed seven motorcyclists in rural northern New Hampshire on Friday evening occurred less than 20 miles from the Maine border. Riders here have been feeling that proximity.
“There are no border lines,” said Steve Davis of Newport, who manages the Motorcycle Riders of Maine, a Facebook group with 13,000 members. “Everyone is devastated.”
Davis posted on Saturday that he was planning to shut down his maripage for seven hours (one for each victim) on Sunday out of respect. Prior to that, though, many members had posted stories about the accident in Randolph, New Hampshire. Some remarked that fatal accidents seem more common. Others offered prayers and condolences to the families of victims, which included four from New Hampshire, one from Rhode Island and a married couple from Massachusetts.
“Like all of you, I’m completely shattered by the loss of 7 riders,” wrote Wendy Hosea. “I look at those photos in disbelief, horror, and deep sadness. I have thought maybe it’s time to stop riding, but then I think of the peace and joy it brings me and I don’t believe that’s the answer.
“All any of us can do is be hyper aware, but also ride with the knowledge that your time could be up at any second, while you are doing anything. Enjoy your life, live it to the fullest, and please, please, ride as safely as you can.”
Like New Hampshire, which hosts a popular motorcycle week every year in Laconia, Maine is a popular state for motorcyclists. Last year, there were 57,745 motorcycle registrations issued in Maine, according to the Maine secretary of state, although that’s down from 63,371 a decade earlier. Those numbers don’t include the many tourists who might ride though Maine.
Davis said he first got his motorcycle license 40 years ago but doesn’t ride as much as he used to for health reasons.
“It’s a brotherhood. It really is,” he said.
Wes Canning of Bucksport manages another popular Facebook page for riders, Maine Motorcycle XPerience. He echoed what Davis said about riding being a brotherhood. He said when he got out of the Army many years ago, he was looking for a similar camaraderie and found it among motorcyclists.
“I don’t think I could give it up,” he said. “There is nothing like being behind a set of handlebars and feeling the wind in your hair.”
The New Hampshire accident involved members of Jarheads MC, a motorcycle group made up of U.S. Marines. There are two Maine chapters, including one called the Napalm Crew, based in Topsham. Kris Crawford, who is part of that group, told NewsCenter Maine that one of the riders killed in the crash was a member of the southern Maine chapter of the club, but did not identify the rider.
“It’s been surreal trying to process everything,” he said. “Everybody’s having a real hard time even processing that it’s even happened. The level at which it happened – it’s unthinkable.”
The day after the tragedy in New Hampshire, a Freeport woman was killed when her motorcycle collided with an SUV in the York County town of Waterboro.
“We hate it to lose any rider, even from someone’s own recklessness, which happens, even if people don’t want to admit that,” Davis said.
Canning said as long as he’s been riding, he feels like he has to be extra vigilant on the road.
“You have to pretend like every car is out to get you,” he said. “You just never know if they see you or not.”
The number of fatal crashes in Maine involving motorcycles typically represents between 10 and 15 percent of all motor vehicles fatalities. Over the last 10 years, the number has fluctuated from a low of 11 fatal crashes involving motorcycle in 2013 to 31 in 2015 – the deadliest year since 1991 – according to the Maine Department of Public Safety. Last year, there were 21 fatalities involving motorcycles.
Davis said most riders he knows are going to ride no matter what, but he also said Friday’s crash is going to influence people for sure. He said everyone could stand to be a little more cautious, whether it’s motorcycle riders or anyone else on the road.
“I know people want to point fingers about who was to blame,’” he said. “I will say that if this truck driver was distracted for some reason, he may need to be incarcerated for his own protection.”
Canning urged people to wait until the investigation is complete but knows some people won’t. He remembers the rush to judgment during a crash two years ago – when two motorcyclists were killed during the annual United Bikers of Maine Toy Run – that resulted in police revising their account of what happened and who was likely responsible.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is assisting in the New Hampshire investigation, eventually faulted Augusta police and United Bikers of Maine for failing ‘to identify and mitigate the risks of 3,000 motorcycles entering Interstate 95.
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