U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center
In part one of a two-part series, a staff sergeant leads four cyclists during a life-altering last ride
He was third in a group of four riders straightening out the turns on a series of country roads skirting a lake.
The roughly 29-mile route was a favorite with riders, including those whose sport bikes could propel them to 150 mph in the straights.
Leading the ride was Staff Sgt. Victor Hernandez, a friend who served in the same unit with Robinson. Hernandez rode with an off-post, non-sanctioned riding group that Robinson wanted to join. He’d been riding as a prospect, but a pending permanent change of station move nixed his plans.
Although Hernandez and one of the other riders belonged to the group, it was not a group-sponsored ride, and neither rider wore the distinctive vest.
The group was known for its riding culture, which was displayed on its website. There, videos showed stunts on streets and interstates and a member exceeding 150 mph.
As far as the Army was concerned, there was history at the site.
During the previous 13 months, three Soldiers affiliated with the group had suffered motorcycle accidents. Two died while the third suffered a permanent disability.
That afternoon, the culture that had killed and crippled those Soldiers was on display as Hernandez led his friends on their ride.
The riders turned north on a road bordering the east side of a lake. Hernandez had lengthened his lead and was playing “catch me if you can” as he pulled out of sight of the other riders.
As the riders approached a dam, they saw a slower-moving cruiser motorcycle in their lane and decided to pass it. The rider in front of Robinson ignored the double yellow line indicating a “no-passing” zone and whipped around the cruiser.
Now it was Robinson’s turn. As he approached the slower bike, the road curved to the left as it crossed the dam.
Robinson passed the cruiser quickly and pulled back into his lane. However, during the process, he ended up too far to the right — dangerously close to the gravel-surfaced shoulder.
The Suzuki was Robinson’s first street bike, and he’d only been riding for about a month. He’d taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course; however, he was no longer on the course’s slow-speed, controlled environment. Now, he was in a sticky situation for which he wasn’t prepared.
Unable to handle the curve, gravel crunched beneath the Suzuki’s tires as Robinson drifted onto the narrow right shoulder, which bordered a guardrail. Now, everything was up for grabs.
The Suzuki lost traction and struck a guardrail support. The impact launched Robinson 84-feet through the air and down the shoulder until he slammed head-first into a guardrail support.
Chris and Mary Burkhart were driving in the southbound lane when they saw the accident unfold in front of them. Mary stopped the car, grabbed her cell phone and called 911. She and her husband rendered aid to Robinson following the instructions of the 911 operator.
The rider behind Robinson also called 911. Hernandez was stopped two miles ahead, waiting for his friends to catch up. When they didn’t, he rode back to see what had happened.
The county volunteer fire department was near the dam, and emergency medical services personnel arrived within three minutes. They checked Robinson and called for a helicopter as they attempted to resuscitate him.
By the time the helicopter arrived, 12 minutes later, Robinson had not been revived, so the EMS technicians contacted the county justice of the peace.
An hour earlier, Robinson had been racing down the road. Now, he was lying dead beside it, the victim of blunt-force trauma to his head.
Why did he die? Robinson ignored the posted speed limits not realizing they were there for his safety. With scarcely a month’s worth of street-riding experience, he didn’t know how to handle the situation he was in. As a result, he made a poor decision that ended his life.
Then there was Hernandez. As Robinson’s leader and friend, he was responsible for the younger Soldier during their off-duty time together. He set an example by the way he rode that afternoon. It was an example other riders could die trying to follow.
(Editor’s Note: In part two next week, discover what riders need to know before revving a bike’s throttle.)