LACONIA — Thousands of motorcyclists will rumble across roadways in the Lakes Region and the state today to honor seven bikers killed in a collision with a pickup truck last month.
Organizers of the Ride For the Fallen 7 said the event started out as a way for some motorcyclists to remember the bikers with a ride to the crash site in Randolph. But word of the ride spread and now there are expected to be up to 5,000 riders making the 90-mile trip north from the Broken Spoke Saloon in Weirs Beach to Randolph. A memorial service will be held that afternoon at a motel where the bikers had stayed.
Laconia Police Chief Matt Canfield said Friday not knowing exactly how many bikers will show up presents a major problem. He said organizers have told him that 1,200 bikers have registered online for the ride, but with estimates of up to more than triple that number taking part, it’s hard to know how much the event will affect already busy holiday traffic.
Canfield said the last he heard there would be no police escort for the riders. But late Friday afternoon WMUR-TV was reporting that state and local police would assist the bikers.
The ride is expected to leave the Broken Spoke around noon, Canfield said. From there, bikers will head out on Roller Coaster Road to Parade Road. From there they will travel north to Pease Road, which will take them out to Route 104. Bikers will take Route 104 west to Interstate 93 in New Hampton, and then travel north on I-93 to Exit 35 in Franconia. From there the group will go north on Route 3, through Twin Mountain and then take Route 115 to Jefferson where they will get on Route 2, which will take them to the crash site in Randolph.
“We wanted to do something to give back and it was going to be a small ride. It turned into this,” said Brian DeSimone, one of the ride’s organizers, who said he was partly inspired by the support he received after a near-fatal crash three years ago.
“I’m amazed,” he continued. “The biggest reason for the turnout is that it affected two core communities — the biker community and the military community. These communities are extremely loyal and have always looked out for one another.”
Canfield estimated that if only the 1,200 preregistered riders were to show up, that would be a parade three times longer than the POW-MIA ride from Gilford to Meredith held every year during Bike Week. Those 1,200 bikers would stretch 3.4 miles, assuming the motorcyclists were traveling two abreast, Canfield explained.
Manny Ribeiro, the president of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, which the seven riders belonged to, said the memorial ride was just another reminder that the biker community is generous.
“We are just part of this huge community,” Ribeiro said. “Those people aren’t there just because seven motorcyclists died. Those people are there because the seven motorcyclists were class-A people who would give their shirts off their back for each and every one of you if you needed it. Those are the people who died.”
Canfield said that ride’s sendoff is only one challenge. The other is handling the arrivals of various groups of riders who will be traveling in from 15 different rally points in New Hampshire and other New England states to the rendezvous at the Broken Spoke.
State safety officials have met with the organizers to ensure a safe and successful ride.
The seven bikers were killed last month when a pickup truck hauling a flatbed trailer crashed into the group. The pickup driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and remains behind bars.
Killed were Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Albert Mazza Jr., 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.
In Massachusetts more than 800 drivers have had their licenses suspended as a result of a probe sparked by the crash.
Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said Friday investigators have searched more than 50 bins where workers had been storing notifications of serious out-of-state driving violations since March 2018, instead of acting on them. Other notices were found in archives.
Connecticut officials twice alerted Massachusetts about a drunken driving arrest against Zhukovskyy. Despite the alerts, Massachusetts failed to suspend his license.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s drafting legislation to make the state’s commercial driver requirements more stringent. The state is also bringing in an outside firm to audit the motor vehicles registry.