Seven Motorcyclists Killed In New Hampshire Crash Given Somber Sendoff By 400 Fellow Riders
A bugle played taps. A reverend blessed bikes with a branch dipped in holy water. A prayer got lodged in a biker's throat.
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The scene was somber on Sunday as a previously scheduled event, the Blessing of the Bikes, turned into a memorial for seven motorcyclists killed Friday in a collision with a pickup truck.
Instead of the 100 to 200 riders who would usually come to such an event, which is held regularly around the country to offer up prayers for a safe biking season, 400 were there.
The blessing was about an hour from where 10 bikers were hit head-on by the truck, which was towing a disabled flatbed trailer. Three were injured, and the truck burst into flame.
The victims were members of a motorcycle club, the Marine JarHeads comprising U.S. Marines and their spouses, according to the Associated Press. They were aged between 42 and 62.
The pickup driver was identified as 23-year-old Volodoymyr Zhukovskyy, an employee of Springfield, Mass.-based Westfield Transport, according to USA Today. He survived and did not have to be hospitalized. He has not been charged, USA Today said. Authorities are still investigating.
"When they fall, we all fall," said Laura Cardinal, vice president of the Manchester Motorcycle Club to AP. "Those families, they're going to go through a lot now. They have a new world ahead of them."
Cardinal said the riders would support the bereaved families of their biking brethren.
According to a GoFundMe page set up for the victims' families, the group was riding to a charity event when they were hit on a remote rural road in New Hampshire.
The site raised $66,000 of its stated $100,000 goal the first day alone. By Sunday evening the goal had been upped to $700,000 and nearly $300,000 had been pledged.
At the blessing turned memorial service, the Rev. Rich Baillargeon presided. He dipped a branch in holy water to bless the bikes as they filed by him, AP said. He also held a moment of silence and prayer for the victims.
One biker tried to say a prayer but got too choked up to finish, AP said. The mournful bugle notes of taps rang out.
On Friday the veterans at the American Legion hall in Gorham, N.H., where the group was headed, had waited in vain for their friends to arrive.
"We kept waiting for them to show up," said bar owner and Navy veteran Michael Demers to The Boston Globe. "They weren't showing up, and it wasn't making sense."
Soon afterward, the news came. There had been a horrific crash involving the entire group. The veterans and supporters never made it.
"It's amazing," Demers told the Globe. "If they had left 20 seconds earlier or 20 seconds later, they'd all still be here."
This article is written by Theresa Braine from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.