Two young men die from injuries suffered in dirt bike accident

Authorities frustrated by number of illegal motorcycles in city

May 05, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Two men were killed yesterday when the unregistered dirt bike they were operating slammed into the back of a 10,000-pound delivery truck, the latest in a string of fatal accidents involving what police say are hordes of off-road vehicles that navigate city streets.

Corey Mason, 20, of the 600 block of Oakland Ave. in Northeast Baltimore died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center shortly after the 1 p.m. accident. His passenger, Dominic Hughes, 19, of the 1200 block of Madison Ave. in West Baltimore, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital about 3 p.m.

Several Police Department and City Hall officials said yesterday's accident in the 3200 block of Loch Raven Road is frustrating because of the inability of authorities to control thousands of the unregistered and illegal vehicles.

Baltimore police are forbidden to pursue dirt bikes -- motorcycles designed for off-road use -- because it is deemed too dangerous.

"It is obvious these dirt bikes are just out of control," said Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh of the city's 4th District. She plans to introduce legislation to ban dirt bikes on city streets. "What we really need to do is prohibit dirt bikes altogether."

Police said the two young men were traveling northbound at a high speed on a Honda dirt bike about 1 p.m. when they ran a red light at Gorsuch Avenue and struck a truck driven by Thomas Taylor, 40, an employee of Eastern Import in Laurel.

After the impact -- which bent the truck's steel bumper -- the victims landed beneath the truck. The dirt-bike became airborne and landed 25 yards away.

Taylor, who lives in the 800 block of N. Glover St. in East Baltimore, said he was about to back into the Abbottston Elementary School delivery dock to deliver cafeteria food when the motorcycle struck his truck.

"I put the emergency blinkers on and was stopped," said Taylor, a 20-year truck driver who began working for Eastern Import six days ago.

"The guys came flying up the street right at me. At the last minute, he changed his mind and tried to turn, but it was too late," Taylor said.

Taylor and police said the men were not wearing helmets.

Sgt. Scott Rowe, a police spokesman, said a preliminary investigation concluded that driver error was to blame in the accident and that no charges will be filed against Taylor.

"The dirt bike is not registered and is not supposed to be on a public roadway," Rowe said.

Northern District Officer E.A. Cummings, who was at the accident scene, said he arrested two men riding the same dirt bike last week on drug charges.

Cummings said he seized the dirt bike, and it was taken to the city impound lot.

Rowe said the bike was probably released to its owner after a fine was paid.

Police said groups of men who ride dirt bikes, sometimes called "rough riders," often travel in groups of 20 or more.

"We get a lot of community complaints about them," said acting police Commissioner Edward T. Norris shortly after the accident.

Norris said the troubling trend of urban youths using dirt bikes is unique to Baltimore.

In addition to yesterday's victims, there have been at least eight other fatalities involving dirt bikes since 1997, with at least two last year.

A Park Heights man was killed on Oct. 2 when the dirt bike he was driving collided with a car in the 3000 block of W. Belvedere Ave.

A man was killed on June 19 when he lost control of his dirt bike and his clothes became entangled in its wheels in the 4200 block of Thayer Court in Brooklyn.

Illegal dirt bikes also have taken their toll on Baltimore police.

Two city police officers were slightly injured on July 18, 1996, when they struggled with the rider of a dirt bike who stole one of the officer's guns and threatened to shoot him in Northeast Baltimore.

A city police helicopter tracking a dirt-bike rider crashed in Easterwood Park in the Greater Rosemont neighborhood on Aug. 12, 1995, injuring two officers.

In July 1996, police purchased 30 dirt bikes to pursue and arrest illegal riders -- often youngsters on joy rides who violate traffic laws and evade police cruisers.

Officers try to locate dirt bikes parked in yards and urge neighbors to call in complaints.

"There's a lot you can do, but it revolves around enforcing regulations," Norris said.

But Pugh said it is difficult for police to differentiate between legal and illegal dirt bikes, so she plans to introduce a bill in a few weeks in the City Council to ban dirt-bikes.

The bill aims to protect residents from being terrorized by dirt bikes.

"They are endangering our lives by ripping up and down our streets," Pugh said.

Yesterday's accident was the latest tragedy for Hughes' family. In 1994, his 9-year-old brother, Tito Taylor, was hit by a stray bullet and killed in the 2200 block of E. Chase St. in East Baltimore.

"Everybody is taking it very, very to the heart," said Gary McDaniels, 26, a family friend. "Because of peer pressure, he probably just thought `everybody is doing it in the city.' Basically he was just being cool, going for a ride on a friend's bike."

Sun staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

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