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Ride for the Fallen 7: Local bikers organize memorial for victims of motorcycle crash in NH

Riders ready their bikes for the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott Ash)

When Brian DeSimone of Derry heard about the seven bikers killed in a crash on June 21 in Randolph, New Hampshire, his mind instantly went to his own serious motorcycle accident in 2016.

While he was riding with friends, he took a turn and ended up hitting the curb. The accident left DeSimone in the hospital with serious injuries.

“It was partially the outpouring I received after the article in (The Eagle-Tribune) — people bringing food and medical supplies — that I knew first-hand what the reaction could be,” he said.

It’s one of the reasons DeSimone stepped in to help his friends Steve Allison of Manchester and Kevin Morris of Nashua organize the “Ride for the Fallen 7.”

From starting locations around the state, bikers will meet at the Broken Spoke Saloon in Laconia on July 6. From there, they will all ride up to Randolph to pay tribute to the seven victims of the crash, all members or supporters of the Marine Jarheads MC (motorcycle club).

Those killed in the crash were Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Mazza, 59, of Lee, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, New Hampshire; Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Massachusetts.

Police have charged 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Massachusetts, with seven counts of negligent homicide. Zhukovskyy was driving a pick-up truck with a trailer for a Massachusetts-area transportation company when he collided with the bikers.

The accident shocked people around the state and nation.

“I was riding with a group and when we heard about it. We just pulled off into a gas station parking lot and sat there for hours discussing it,” Morris said.

Since the accident, a GoFundMe page has raised more than $500,000 for the families of the victims.

For all the generosity he has seen in the biker community, “I’ve never seen an outpouring like this,” DeSimone said.

Within days of the accident after processing his shock, Allison and his friend Charlie Lord decided to start a memorial ride for those involved in the accident.

“We thought it would be 20, 50 maybe 100 bikers for a memorial ride and prayer session,” Allison said. Essentially after posting the idea to Facebook the ride went viral, he explained.

That’s when Allison started building his team — which quickly became family — to help with the logistics of the event.

DeSimone, Allison, Morris and other bikers have been in constant contact as their plans for the memorial ride have been changing day by day.

DeSimone was put in charge of media outreach. Morris has been helping set up a staging area in Nashua. And their group has been coordinating reaching out to local and state law enforcement.

“We are doing something in 10 days that would normally take a year,” Morris said.

Allison recounted how typically memorial rides start small, and potentially grow.

“But this one is starting big,” Allison said. “We already have people asking if we will have one next year, and I’m like, ‘Let’s get through this one.'”

“One MC (motorcycle club) from Sarasota (Florida) just posted they were coming,” Morris said, waving his phone.

Allison said they could have restricted the amount of bikers who wanted to participate through some sort of registration, “but it’s a free ride,” he said.

“This wasn’t just New England that was struck,” Allison said. “The biker community, the veteran community, the biker-veteran community we are all the same. We are a family and we look out for each other.

“Bikers are the most charitable people I know, and this is just amazing to see,” Allison said.

As of Friday, more than 800 people were in a Facebook group called “Ride for the Fallen 7.” It was created 24-hours prior to help the organizers get a handle on who was coming.

Members of Jarheads MC will be leading the 80-mile memorial ride from Broken Spokes in Laconia to Randolph, Allison said.

Safety first

Jay Loycano of Derry is leading the group from the Derry to Broken Spokes. He knows DeSimone through their club, and he reached out to help when he heard about the plans.

“It’s the awareness in motorcycle groups that when one suffers we all suffer,” Loycano said. “And this one hit really close to home. It’s great to see the different riding clubs and seeing all these people come together.”

His biggest concern leading one of the groups to the meet-up site is safety.

“We won’t be out there for just a joyride,” Allison said. “We’ll be out there for a mission.”

He explained that typically when bikers congregate for larger memorial rides they are donating their time and money to a cause. He hopes that other drivers on the road will think of the good the bikers are doing, instead of just getting antsy when the potentially 2-mile-long line of bikers rolls through their town.

“When you see it coming just try to enjoy it,” Loycano said. “You have got to realize that we are on two wheels, exposed to everything. And we also can’t be aggressive. We have to give the respect we want to get.”

On a typical day drivers can help bikers by being aware of your blind spots and “putting down their damn phones,” Allison said.

Each of the men sitting around the table shared stories of how they have waived down police officers while they were out on the road and saw a driver using their phone.

“The officer got out of his car with a ticket book and took care of it right there,” Allison said.

He also recommends advanced motorcycle courses to people who want to ride. In New Hampshire the class is only required for people under 18 seeking their motorcycle licenses, but he has learned a lot from the class, he said.

Capt. Vernon Thomas for the Derry Police said, especially for group rides, bikers should remember to keep an adequate distance between each other.

As for sharing the road normally Thomas, who also is a biker, said that people need to remember to be courteous and give people adequate space to stop — emphasizing that bikers need more room to stop.

“Four wheels dragging on the pavement is a lot different than two,” Thomas said. When motorcycles come back out on the road “it’s just like the first snow, you have to relearn how to be aware of them.”

Tips for sharing the road with bikers from AAA

• Be extra cautious on weekends, which is when more motorcyclists tend to be on the road.

• Provide motorcyclists adequate room to maneuver. Follow at least three to four seconds behind them.

• Allow extra maneuvering room in areas with potholes, pavement transitions and railroad crossings. Motorcyclists may need to slow down, stop or adjust their lane position.

• Never try to share a lane with a motorcycle. Motorcycles have the same right to lanes as any other vehicle.

• If a motorcycle is nearby, check your mirrors carefully before changing lanes. Motorcycles may be in your blind spots or difficult to see because of their smaller size.


© 2019 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.