A motorcycle passenger on her way back from a national bikers’ event at Atlanta Motor Speedway died early Saturday after been struck by a suspected drunk driver.
The motorcyclists were in town for the National Bikers’ Roundup at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 45,000 tickets had been sold for the event, said Ted Austad, the Speedway’s special events coordinator.
Officials say they were initially worried about rival gangs who had planned to fight at the event. However, police halted the fight when they intercepted a car carrying illegal weapons.
“It’s been a real, very well behaved crowd. We’ve had not one assault, fight, or report of violence,” Austad said. “Traffic has been crazy, a lot of motorcycles coming and going.”
The deadly crash occurred around 2:30 a.m. on Riverdale Road near Garden Walk Boulevard. A woman was travelling on the back of a motorcycle.
“A vehicle struck the back of the motorcycle and then continued on Riverdale Road and struck another vehicle,” Clayton County Police spokesman Officer Kevin Hughes said.
The suspect, Lamar Jayson Johnson, 18, then abandoned his car and started to run, Hughes said. A witness driving in the area saw the crash and chased after Johnson, police said.
“The citizen witness detained the driver of the car and held him until police arrived,” Hughes said.
Paramedics rushed the male motorcycle driver to the hospital with serious injuries. The female passenger was pronounced dead on the scene, Hughes said.Johnson, of McDonough, was taken to the Clayton County jail on charges of first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI, possession of alcohol by a minor, leaving the scene of an accident and following too closely.
Police were still trying to locate the female victim’s family Saturday night and did not identify her. She was from South Carolina, Hughes said. The male driver is from Riverdale.
Both victims were wearing helmets, Hughes said.In addition to traffic officers, the Speedway called in extra Henry County sheriff’s deputies to patrol the event after FBI reports indicated there may be a possible gang fight, Austad said.
However, police believe they halted that threat when they stopped a speeding Cadillac on Interstate 85 this week.
Gwinnett County Police said three bikers from Pittsburgh were inside the car, along with four handguns. Officers seized the guns and said at least one was listed as stolen by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The men inside the Cadillac told officers they were members of the “Sin City Titans Outlaw Motorcycle Club” - one of the groups mentioned in the FBI warning - and heading to the Bikers’ Roundup, police said. The three bikers were all taken to the Gwinnett County jail.
“I don’t know if that violence would have happened had they got here. But what a great Godsend that random stop was,” Austad said. “We’re just glad it was cut off before they got here.”Police are encouraging drivers to pay extra attention because of the number of bikers on the roadways this weekend.
Deadly motorcycle crashes in Georgia spiked 174 percent from 2000 to 2008, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. The state reported 61 fatal bike wrecks in 2000 and 167 in 2008.
The bikers’ festival started Tuesday and is scheduled to conclude Sunday. Hotel rooms were sold out in Henry, Clayton, Fayette and Spalding counties, Austad said.