Scenic ride turned tragic
Jeremy Scott Brown loved motorcycles and never was far from one, and he also was a committed member of the Army National Guard.
Brown, 24, who died in a motorcycle accident Sunday, had joined the Guard when he was just 17 and had risen to the rank of staff sergeant, said his mother, Wendi Oliver.
"I signed for him, and he joined the Guard unit in Newton," Oliver said.
Brown then went to the Hickory Guard unit, and then transferred to the 230th Brigade Support Battalion in Dunn, where he served in the maintenance unit performing armament repair. Sgt. 1st Class Stanley Hopkins praised Brown's commitment.
"He was a good soldier and took care of our troops," Hopkins said. "He was a true leader."
Brown, who at the time of his death lived on Olde Grove Road in Hudson, was a 2008 graduate of Hickory High School.
"He was a good child, he loved his family and never met a stranger," Oliver said.
Mason Thuss, 20, of Littlejohn Church Road in Lenoir, who was on the same motorcycle trip Sunday as Brown and also wrecked a few miles away from where Brown did, said he had just met Brown that day. He regrets that the ride turned tragic so suddenly, and that a new-found friend is now gone.
"He seemed like a pretty cool guy," Thuss said.
Brown joined a group of about 10 other motorcyclists on Sunday for a ride organized on Facebook. The riders met at the Lenoir Walmart parking and left about 1 p.m., headed for Freeborne's Eatery and Lodge on N.C. 18 in Laurel Springs, a popular stop near the Blue Ridge Parkway about 50 miles from Lenoir, before heading back to Caldwell County. Their route included the scenic drive up N.C. 268 to Wilkesboro.
But about 1:20 p.m., a 2000 Honda sport bike driven by Thuss and carrying passenger Amber Miller, 18, of Maple Street in Hudson failed to round a sharp curve just past Indian Grave Road, Trooper David Church of the N.C. Highway Patrol. The motorcycle ran into a grassy field, and Thuss and Miller were thrown. Both suffered minor injuries and were not hospitalized. Thuss was charged with exceeding a safe speed and unlawfully carrying a passenger, which his license restriction didn't allow, Church said.
Not long after Thuss wrecked but several miles down the highway, Brown, riding a 2006 Honda CVR 1000, ran off the road in a curve near the Wilkes County line. Brown was thrown from his bike, struck a wooden fence post at a pasture and died instantly. Church said it appeared that something diverted Brown's attention -- a lack of skid marks on the highway indicated Brown did not hit the brakes before he wrecked.
About 1:30 p.m., a bug flew into the eye of Taylor Abshire, 19, of Blackburn Bridge Road in Maiden as he drove his 1996 Suzuki sport bike on N.C. 268 near Hollywood Ridge Road, and he lost control and ran off the road and into a yard. Speed was not a factor, and no charges were filed, Church said. Abshire suffered only minor injuries.
The three wrecks in such a short time span were an unusual occurrence, even with numerous motorcyclists routinely on the highways on weekends and holidays.
"You had a mix of good riders who like to ride fast, some carrying passengers, and inexperienced riders in this group," Church said. "The good riders had appeared to go out ahead of the others, but with these high-powered bikes, you have to be careful no matter how experienced a rider you are."