Motorcyclists with a club composed of U.S. Marine veterans collided with a pickup truck on a rural highway, killing seven people, injuring others and leaving the biker community reeling.
A 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck collided with the riders Friday on U.S. 2, a two-lane highway in Randolph, New Hampshire State Police said. The cause of the deadly collision is not yet known, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
The pickup truck, which appeared from photos to be carrying a flatbed trailer, was on fire when emergency crews arrived. Witnesses described a "devastating" scene as bystanders tried to help riders lying in the road.
Along with the seven dead, state police said three additional people were taken to hospitals. Their conditions were unknown, and it wasn't clear whether the dead were all bikers. Police did not provide names.
The crash sent shockwaves through New England's community of motorcycle enthusiasts and military veterans, which sometimes overlap. The crash involved members of Marine JarHeads MC, a motorcycle club in New England that includes Marines and their spouses.
"When something like this happens, we all feel it," said Cat Wilson, who organizes a motorcycle charity event in Massachusetts and is a friend of some of the crash victims. "There is no tighter community than our biker community."
A photo posted by WMUR-TV showed motorcycles and wreckage scattered across the highway and a truck on the shoulder in flames. The road reopened Saturday, and skid marks were still visible on the road, which has mountains and fields as a backdrop. A patch of burned grass remained.
Bill Brown, a 73-year-old military veteran and motorcyclist, arrived at the scene near a gentle curve in the road to plant flags, calling the victims "brothers in arms" and vowing to keep riding.
"It's tragic," State Police Capt. Chris Vetter told reporters during a news conference late Friday. "It's tragic for those involved, tragic for the families, so we're doing our job, we're doing our work and our thoughts are with the people who were adversely affected by this."
The NTSB has sent a team to the site. Authorities planned another news conference Saturday afternoon.
The NTSB investigates every civil aviation accident in the country, but only up to 20 per year involving other modes of transportation, spokesman Peter Knudson said. The agency investigates, he said, when "there are safety gains to be had from our investigation."
Randolph is about a two-hour drive north of Concord, the capital, and a three-hour drive from Boston.
The crash created a chaotic scene in the town of about 300 people.
"There was debris everywhere," said Miranda Thompson, 21, of Manchester, who was several cars back and recalled seeing a truck in flames on the side of the highway and six motorcycles.
"People were in the grass. There were people putting tourniquets on people, trying to make sure they didn't move," she said.
Jerry Hamanne, co-owner of a nearby bed-and-breakfast where most of the motorcyclists were staying, said he and a doctor also staying at his inn went to the scene to help. Others tried to assist as best they could but some people were already dead.
"It was so devastating to see the bodies on the road," Hamanne said. "My God, I don't want to see something like this again."
Members of the motorcycle community are already organizing help for the victims' families, Wilson said. A memorial in nearby Berlin was planned for Saturday evening.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, which hosts one of the state's biggest rallies, said he couldn't recall an accident of this magnitude involving bikers in the state.
"This is staggering, and it's tragic beyond description," St. Clair said. "You have a bunch of people out for a ride enjoying one of the first nice days we had. To have this happen, it defies logic, quite frankly."
Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed.
This story has been updated to correct that three others were taken to hospitals, not two.