New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined leather-clad bikers from across the country at a memorial Saturday for the seven motorcyclists killed in a collision with a truck last month and pledged to donate $100,000 to help the victims' families.
Bikers from as far as Louisiana and Arizona rode in for the event outside Gillette Stadium to pay their respects to the motorcyclists, who were killed June 21 when a pickup truck hauling a flatbed trailer slammed into a group of riders in Randolph, New Hampshire. They were members or supporters of the Jarheads, a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses.
Kraft surprised the crowd, including the Jarheads, when he pledged to donate $100,000 to the GoFundMe page set up to assist the victims' families. Before the memorial service, the campaign had already raised over $560,000. Kraft said if they did not reach their goal of $700,000 by the end of the day, he would match the difference.
"The Jarheads are what makes America the greatest,'' Kraft said. "We are all Patriots and you are the true patriots.''
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Manny Ribeiro, Jarheads president and crash survivor, said the weeks since the crash have been "awful'' but the "unwavering support'' has helped the group and the biker community through the tragedy.
"This event would not have come together without Mr. Kraft,'' he said over the sound of live music and roaring motorcycles.
George Loring, another Jarheads member, said the support helps, but "it doesn't stop the tears.''
"Every motorcyclist here is here to support those who have died and those who are injured and hopefully their presence today will help everybody heal,'' said Loring, who was yards away from the crash.
The pickup driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and remains behind bars.
Connecticut officials twice alerted Massachusetts about a drunken driving arrest against Zhukovskyy. Despite the alerts, Massachusetts failed to suspend his license.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he's drafting legislation to make the state's commercial driver requirements more stringent. The state is also bringing in an outside firm to audit the motor vehicles registry.
"We lost seven people because they filed their paperwork away and didn't do their jobs. This guy should not have been driving,'' Loring said. "Now, we all have to live with it,'' he said.