A local man, Nicholas David Wheeler, and a teenager, Zabery Islina Pesqueda, are dead and three others were left with serious injuries following a collision between a motorcycle and a minivan on Loop 335 (St. Francis Avenue) at Mountain Drive that happened around 9 p.m. Friday.
Amarillo Police Department Sgt. Brent Barbee said a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan “drove out in front of the motorcycle” as the northbound van’s driver was turning west onto St. Francis Ave. from Mountain Drive.
Zabery Islina Pesqueda, 17, who was sitting in the right rear seat of the minivan, died in the collision as well as 32-year-old Nicholas David Wheeler, who was driving a 2005 Suzuki motorcycle.
Judge Thomas Jones, Potter County’s Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace, has ordered autopsies.
Anita Pesqueda, 42, the van’s driver, and two children, aged 14 and 9, were taken by ambulance to Northwest Texas Hospital. The 9-year-old was sitting in the front seat and the 14-year-old was sitting in the left rear passenger seat, according to police. Investigators were unable to confirm if they were all wearing seat belts. By Saturday afternoon APD said the three were still being treated but that their injuries were no longer life-threatening.
APD’s Traffic Investigations squad is attempting to determine if speed was a factor in the wreck. The posted speed limit in that area is 55 mph, police said.
After the Friday night collision Loop 335 from River Road to Echo Street was closed and emergency vehicles remained on scene well after midnight, more than three hours after the crash, while police continued to investigate.
Family members of both victims gathered at the scene as they sought information and answers.
Genny Neely said the van’s driver, Anita Pesqueda, is her former daughter-in-law and that her grandchildren were passengers in the minivan. Neely said the accident happened close to her home but would not say if the family was on the way to her house.
APD said on Saturday that the motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet, which his younger brother – Wayne Wheeler – said he doubts.
“They say they didn’t find a helmet which is crazy, because he always wore a helmet,” Wayne Wheeler said. “That’s not him, there’s a helmet around here somewhere.”
Wayne Wheeler said his mother was worried about Nick and sent him out to look for him. Then he heard about the wreck, which was a block away from Nick’s home. He and his wife Amanda were the first members of their family on the scene.
“He’d help you out anyway he could. He was a loving brother,” Wayne Wheeler said.
Wheeler’s family said Nick was a great mechanic and a hard worker who was employed at Rocla Concrete Tie Inc.
“Laci said he had his helmet,” said Amanda Wheeler, Nick Wheeler’s sister-in-law.
Amanda described Nicholas David Wheeler as a “free spirited, funny, silly” man who had many friends. “He was very likeable. He had a big heart. He really loved his bike.”
Nicholas David Wheeler’s sister Laci Wheeler was with her brother earlier in the day on Friday.
“He was playing with his nieces and nephews, having fun and just being a great uncle,” she said.
“He had a very good heart. There was one time when he and my husband were heroes. A house was burning and they pulled a gentleman out of the house. They both pulled him out of the house and Nick went back in to get his wheelchair. Then they left. They were called ‘Unknown Heroes.’”
Rhonda Hatch and Kevin Groom also came to the accident scene to offer comfort to the Wheeler family on behalf of a group called the Biker Recovery Organization (BRO).
Hatch said BRO helps family members pay bills, rent, food, and sometimes contribute toward funeral services. “They’ll do whatever they can to help this biker’s family out,” Hatch said, including helping fly Nick Wheeler’s 12-year-old daughter and her mother from San Antonio to Amarillo for his funeral.
“It’s getting to be that time of the season where the bikes are coming out and people just aren’t used to watching for them,” Groom said. “They’re on their phones, or they’re just not seeing, or [two weeks ago] somebody intentionally brake-checked everybody, slammed on their brakes in front of a whole pack of bikes and they all started piling up at 75 miles an hour and somebody went off the road.” Groom said the incident happened near Tulia, on the Claude Highway.
BRO was recently formed by the owners of D &M Leathers, Dwaine and Michele Munsell.
Groom says the group hopes to bring awareness to motorists by having meetings and working with educational institutions such as Amarillo College to offer courses specifically geared toward safety and sharing the roads with bikers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 “53 percent of motorcycles involved in fatal crashes were collisions with motor vehicles in transport. In two-vehicle crashes, 73 percent of the motorcycles involved in motor vehicle traffic crashes were frontal collisions. Only seven percent were struck from the rear.”