AUGUSTA — A federal transportation safety agency concluded that the probable cause of a fatal chain-reaction crash on Interstate 95 during a 2017 charity motorcycle ride was an unsafe maneuver by one of the motorcycle operators.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a report dated April 3, also cited as a contributing factor the failure of both the Augusta Police Department and the United Bikers of Maine to identify and plan for the risk associated with routing a group motorcycle riders onto and off of an interstate highway without providing additional traffic control or state police oversight.

Two people were killed and seven people were injured, two seriously, as a result of the crash on Sept. 10, 2017.

“We are still in the process of reviewing the entire document, so we are not doing any interviews or comments at this time,” Kevin Lully, deputy chief of the Augusta Police Department, said via email Tuesday.

Sam Lyle, public relations officer and former president of the United Bikers of Maine, said Tuesday the organization had no comment. A statement is expected Thursday after the organization’s executive committee meets.

For nearly four decades, the United Bikers of Maine has held a Toy Run, inviting motorcyclists to take part in a ride. The only entry fee is the donation of a toy for a needy child in Maine. Membership in United Bikers of Maine is not required.

In 2017, an estimated 3,000 motorcyclists took part in the Sunday ride. They assembled in the parking lot of the Augusta Civic Center before taking off on a route that took them onto I- 95 northbound at exit 112. They rode on the interstate for less than a mile; the route left the interstate at exit 113 to continue to the Windsor Fairgrounds via routes 3 and 32.

An investigation by Maine State Police concluded that Aaron White-Sevigny, 25, of Windsor, started the chain-reaction collision when he veered from the travel lane, where the motorcycles were, into the passing lane in front of a northbound pickup truck. The motorcycle was traveling about 25 mph, while the pickup was traveling at 56 mph.

The state police investigation showed that William Nusom, the driver of the pickup, tried to avoid hitting the motorcycle and steered into the guardrail in the median. He lost control of the truck, traveled across three lanes and struck other motorcycles before the truck went through the right guardrail, overturned and landed on its side.

Jamie Gross, 58, of Belmont, died at the scene. White-Sevigny died at the hospital.

Initially, the state police believed Gross had caused the crash.

According to the NTSB report, the United Bikers of Maine had secured a parade permit for the event from the city of Augusta.

The report also states that the Augusta Police Department told the federal investigators it did not have standard operating procedures in place for managing the Toy Run, but it did have a planning document for the traffic control detail that consisted of a sergeant and 10 officers who were deployed in marked police vehicles at intersections and congested areas along the ride’s route. The parade route was marked with police barricades and detour signs, and an Augusta police motorcycle officer was designated as the lead vehicle.

In a footnote, the report states that no Augusta police were stationed on the interstate, as only the Maine State Police have jurisdiction there.

While the Augusta Police Department had coordinated with the state police to monitor the interstate segment in other years, the report notes, in 2017 it did not notify or coordinate with the state police.

The report notes that a required permit from the Maine Department of Transportation for an interstate lane closure of longer than 20 minutes was not issued. The permit carries with it a requirement of a traffic control plan that covers having trained personnel to oversee traffic control and detour traffic control, detour signs to direct motorists from the the lane closure and back to the standard route, changeable message signs for closures lasting more than 60 minutes on heavily traveled roads, and following Federal Highway Administration guidance for temporary lane closures.

Another footnote states that given the number of participants, the Toy Run would have required a lane closure of about an hour. “Although the Maine DOT had never been asked to issue a permit for this annual event,” the report said, “it would most likely have denied a permit request, because lane closures are rarely authorized on the interstate.”

The report recommends that the city of Augusta “include in your city ordinances a requirement that all organizations seeking city approval to conduct a parade or special event involving roadway use create a safety plan that includes, at a minimum, the following elements: safe route selection, acquisition of all required permits, and hazard mitigation.”

Further, it recommends that the United Bikers of Maine “include in your group motorcycle riding event procedures a requirement to create a safety plan that includes, at a minimum, the following elements: safe route selection, acquisition of all required permits, and hazard mitigation.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: