Friday, May 22, 2015

License to Kill

If you’re looking to kill someone legally, you might want to consider the State of Alaska.  Here’s a bit of history.

May 3, 2014.  Four motorcyclists were travelling inbound from Palmer toward Wasilla and Anchorage.  A driver was waiting to make a left-hand turn from the outbound lane of traffic.  His vehicle was hit from behind by Dakota J. Letherman, 18, of Palmer, pushing him into the lane occupied by the four motorcyclists.  Three of the motorcyclists were killed.  A husband and wife, Jim and Sabrina Carlyle, and Elaine Loew, the wife of the fourth rider who went down but escaped serious injuries. 

I just learned the following on May 19, more than a year since this tragic collision, from an article in the Mat-su Valley Frontiersman:

According to the State of Alaska District Attorney in Palmer, Roman Kalytiak, no charges would be filed against Letherman.  Why, I ask?

The Alaska State Troopers said the investigation was completed.  Kalytiak said Assistant District Attorney Shawn Traini reviewed the investigation and declined to prosecute.  Why, I ask?

Kalytiak said there were no drugs or alcohol involved, and no evidence of phone use at the time.  He said further that Palmer grand juries have a history of declining to indict for traffic violations and/or inattentiveness resulting in death.  Why, I ask?  It would have been nice if the Grand Jury had at least been given the opportunity to speak for themselves.

These people were beloved husband, wives, mothers, father, grandparents, siblings.  They were contributing members of their communities.  Yet, their lives were snuffed out by Letherman’s inattentive and reckless driving, and he wasn’t even issued a ticket for rear-ending another vehicle – which I thought was an automatic ticket?  Why, I ask?

The family and friends left behind have suffered and will continue to suffer heart-breaking grief.  And what about the price paid by the families through no fault of the victims, including insurance rates, damages, loss of love and friendship.  Does anyone even care?  I'm sick of people who do not take responsibility, who are not held accountable.

I believe there is something extremely flawed in the Alaska justice system.  I think there is something underhanded in the way this has been handled.  I think their decision not to prosecute sends a huge message to motorcyclists that our lives are inconsequential.

I can’t help but feel that if it were one of the Palmer residents, or Alaska State Troopers, or Palmer Prosecutors or Assistant Prosecutors, whose husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent or sibling had been killed in this homicide, the decision regarding prosecution would have been entirely different. 

The way I see it, if you’re looking to commit murder with a deadly weapon (vehicle), by all means to go Alaska is the place to do it, and this is the way.  As long as you aren’t driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or marijuana, or talking or texting on your cell phone, you can use your vehicle to kill whoever you want without fear of prosecution.  According to Palmer’s own prosecutorial staff, their grand jury certainly won’t indict you.  In fact, you probably won’t even get a ticket, have anything on your driving record or even get an increase in your vehicle insurance premium.  Yep, Palmer, Alaska … known for its License to Kill.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A day of memories

Sunday, May 3, a week ago today -- wonderful, emotional, sad.  It was the first anniversary of the loss of three of my fellow motorcycle riders who died in a motorcycle/vehicle collision, May 3, 2014.  The loss was devastating.  Gone were three of our friends, Jim and Sabrina … a beautiful husband and wife duo, and Elaine … a kind, warm and very special woman to many of my friends and me. 

Jim and Sabrina, 2006 (photo by Dorothey McPherson, copied from Sabrina's FB page)
Elaine was an important part of my local Harley Owners family so her loss was exceptionally difficult for our group.  Her husband, Paul, another great friend to many, also went down, but thankfully he recovered. 

Three people … who were mother, father, parent, grandparent, sibling, daughter, son … well-loved and respected, contributing over and over again to the community, their families, their Harley families and friends in so many ways.

A ride had been organized in their honor, as well as a barbecue later at the Denali Harley-Davidson shop near Wasilla.  We gathered, a hundred bikes or more, to show support, to show respect and to celebrate the lives of our fallen.

The bikes continued to come in to join in the ride to the Valley.  Vehicles also came to transport other people and food for the event later at the shop.
In Anchorage small groups left at intervals, heading for the Glenn Highway and out to a school in the Valley to gather more riders for the final parade past the collision site, and on to the shop for the barbecue.  I was in the third group. 

As my group rode out of the east side of town, I could see up ahead the first two groups, separated by maybe a quarter-or-a-half mile.  There would be many groups on the road, and I was proud to be a part of something so special.  It was an honor to be riding for our friends.

I could see ahead that the second group had caught up to the first one, and just that quickly, the groups became one.  It brought tears to my eyes, thinking of how well our people ride, how well they understand the idea of honoring our fallen angels by riding for them.  And then it was our group’s turn, and we became one with the larger mass of bikes in front of us.  We moved steadily along the Glenn, slowing down when necessary to let traffic pass us, and to let other groups join us.  There were others of the motorcycle family on the overpasses photographing and videotaping the procession.  It’s an exceptional feeling to be a part of something that is so powerful, yet so heart-wrenching.

We rode 100-strong, cutting over to the Parks Highway and turning onto Trunk Road ending up at a school where additional bikers waited to join the group. 

Kym gave everyone memorial ribbons.
We were now ready to ride back to the Glenn Highway, where slowly, with motors revving and horns honking, we passed the collision site, where family members stood.  It hit you in the gut … the memorial sign, the crosses, the still grieving families.  I saluted and then we were past and headed to the shop.  It was difficult, it was painful, it was so incredibly moving.

We arrived at the shop and it was great to see so many there.  It was fun even while the reason was not. 
Cooking them dogs.

There was a line, as there usually is for food at a group where there are HOGs.

The weather could not have been any more beautiful.

Lauren and Becky.

Smiling faces were everywhere as we were celebrating the lives of our friends.

Grace and Vin.

And there was no lack of people at this party.

Valley and Anchorage chapters ... we were one for this.

Visiting with everyone is always a plus, even on this type of occasion.

Glenda had many of her family members at the ride.

Kara and Dennis.

The jugs had it ... iced tea, of course.

Frank, Frank, Frank.

Lovely ladies.  Supposedly not so serious.

Or a little serious.  Or not. 

Folks I hadn't seen in a while were there.

Michele and Michael.

There's always someone making it a real party ... bring on the whipped cream!!!
And it was not the end of the day.  The ABATE organization dedicated their motorcycle training range to Elaine, Jim and Sabrina, later in the evening -- the Three Angels Memorial Track, a beautiful tribute to the fallen angels …   

A beautiful way to memorialize our friends.
It was solemn, it was unique.
And many were there in support of the dedication of the ABATE range.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Women ride

This past weekend (the first one in May) was wonderful, emotional and sad. 

On Saturday, May 2, I woke up to loads of sunshine and the first order of business was the bike blessing at the downtown park strip.  I meandered down and it was awesome to see the hundreds of bikes lined up on all of the streets surrounding the area, as well as the tents with vendor wares, motorcycle groups with T-shirts for sale, my friend sewing on patches. 
Bikes were lined up like this all the way around the block and then some.
It was fun to see the bikes coming and going, to see people I’d not seen in a while, and to visit with others that I’d just seen the previous day.  The sun made everything bright and cheerful, and I had a warmth about me that made me feel good.  Maybe the temperatures are getting warmer.  No matter the reason, I was glad to be out and about.
Personal bike blessings were available if you wanted them.
From the park strip I rode Princess Bee-a-trix out to the New Motorcycle Shop on the Old Seward Highway where women with bikes of every denomination were meeting.  It was International Female Ride Day and we were going to ride to Hatcher Pass for lunch and a photo.

When I arrived at the shop there were about 20 bikes, maybe more.  It was impressive to see this group of women with all makes and models, big and small, standing around and waiting to mount their two-and-three-wheeled steeds.  
Jaz handles the pre-ride safety briefing.
And the sun was shining down on us, lighting the path we’d follow, after our illustrious leader, Jaz, of course.  The Purple Haze was the sweep of the day.  The first challenge would be getting through the light to get onto the Old Seward Highway.  That didn’t go well.  We lost several of the ladies.  They’d catch us.

The road was laid out in front of us, pavement filled with cars, trucks and other bikes going their own separate ways.  They didn’t present any problems for us.  We had a great ride, arriving at the Hatcher Pass Lodge and its dirt parking lot.  Whoops.  Bike down.  No damage.  We found out another bike slid out in a corner.  A small amount of damage, but the important part is there were no riders injured in any of these obstacles to our riding day. 
The setting was gorgeous ... a road, bikes and snow where it should be, in the background.
Lunch was probably the most difficult part of the journey as there was one cook and one serving person.  It went very slow.  And that’s all I have to say about that. 
Waiting for food.
It truly was beautiful ... and there were ladies basking in the sun.
The lodge was perfect with an interesting decor.  With the sunshine it made for a great time to visit and look around.  All too soon it was time to head back to town and to the barn. 
Good night.  Tomorrow will be a hard day ... an anniversary.