FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va., — Dozens of drivers on a congested Northern Virginia interstate witnessed a fiery crash that killed a motorcyclist on Easter morning.
Bridget Tate was driving with her wife home to Raleigh from Maryland when a motorcycle traveling at a high rate of speed raced passed them on I-95 in Fairfax County. A Virginia State Police trooper soon followed behind.
“That’s concerning they’re traveling at this speed,” Tate recalled thinking at the time. “What did this motorcyclist do?”
Officials with Virginia State Police said a trooper clocked a motorcycle going 124 mph in a 55 mph zone on I-495 just after 9 a.m.
“The trooper pulled in behind the motorcycle and activated his lights and sirens in an attempt to stop the vehicle," officials said. "But the motorcycle sped away even faster and a pursuit was initiated. As the motorcycle approached the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the trooper terminated the pursuit."
Officials said that same trooper was running radar on I-495 around 10:20 a.m. when the same motorcyclist sped by.
When the trooper tried to pull over the motorcyclist, the driver sped up and took the exit for I-95 south, according to state police.
Officials said that when the motorcycle started "splitting the lanes" between cars on I-95, the troopers stopped their pursuit.
Tate said she didn’t recall troopers stopping their pursuit until she saw a plume of smoke from the wreckage.
“The motorcycle was absolutely zooming in and out of traffic and the state trooper continued pursuit,” she explained.
Then troopers received a call around 10:30 a.m. about a two-vehicle crash along I-95 south not far from the exit for Route 1.
"When troopers arrived on scene, they recognized the motorcycle as the one pursued earlier," officials said. "Based on witness statements, the motorcycle rear-ended a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. The impact of the crash caused the motorcyclist to be thrown from the vehicle and the motorcycle to catch fire."
Video from the scene showed a blue pick-up with the right side of its truck bed smashed. Tate remembered seeing the motorcyclist’s body in the road.
“It was obvious to me just by glancing he was deceased,” she stated. “His motorcycle was approximately 300 feet ahead of him meaning he was thrown off the motorcycle in that spot and them the motorcycle preceded forward and burst into flames.”
Tate questioned the pursuit during the highly congested holiday traffic.
“I definitely don’t want to solely put this on the state trooper by the choices the individual made,” she explained. “I do believe this could’ve been handled in a different manner.”
Troopers administered first aid, but the motorcyclist died at the scene, according to officials.
His name has not yet been released as authorities are still in the process of notifying his next of kin.
The driver of the truck was transported with minor injuries.
"The crash investigation remains ongoing," officials with state police said.
“We try to lead by example,” said motorcycle enthusiasts.
The roar of an engine is synonymous with warmer weather in Central Virginia.
Eric Hunter and Jeffrey Walton lead the Richmond Riders Motorcycle Club. Their passion for riding bikes started when they were teenagers.
“The cliche is you never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist office,” Hunter joked. “It does help you clear your head.”
Part of the Richmond Riders logo states: ’Safety and education and duty to community.” The members take pride in the fact they take motorcycle safety seriously.
Often members will provide on-the-spot critiques of other riders if they were unsafe on the roads.
They urge all new and experienced riders to plan for every scenario on the road.
“A lot of times it’s not wearing the proper gear, driving too fast for conditions and just overriding your abilities,” Hunter explained. "They say you don't wear the gear for the ride, you wear the gear for the fall."
Walton urged all operators to have an “out” and be able to quickly maneuver out of the path of an object in the road or another vehicle.
“When you’re riding you’re able to look and glance and see people on their phones. Expect them not to see you,” he stated.
Take a safety class before you purchase your new motorcycle. You may find out the hobby isn’t for you.
VSP offers a free Ride 2 Save Lives motorcycle assessment course that is free to the public. Their next event is April 17 at 9 a.m. in Midlothian.
Senior Tpr. Adam Ruffin serves with VSP's Division 1 motorcycle squad based in Richmond.
"When people get their motorcycle license through the DMV they assume they're ready to ride and can do just about anything. You need a lot more practice to go along with it," Ruffin warned. "Ride in your neighborhood first and once you get comfortable ride on the main street and graduate to a bigger road. Then you can take it to the interstate."
Private courses can cost $165, but Hunter said the cost is minimal compared to the potential price tag of a dangerous crash.
“Ride with experienced riders and ride with someone who will take the time to educate you and show you what’s going wrong,” he said.