By Sara Brown
---- — HAMPTON — A car crashed into a group of bicyclists yesterday during an annual ride along the New England coastline, killing two riders and injuring two others, police said.
All of the victims were from the North Shore area of Massachusetts and were participating in the 40th annual Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century ride.
Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, died from injuries received in the crash, which happened on a two-lane bridge in Hampton at about 8:30 a.m., 90 minutes after the ride began. Both were pronounced dead at the hospital: Wells at Exeter Hospital; Bouchard at Portsmouth Hospital.
Two other bicyclists were transported to the hospital with non life threatening injuries. Police identified them as Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers.
Investigators have determined that four bicyclists participating in the Annual Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century ride were traveling north on Ocean Blvd just starting over the Underwood Bridge. A vehicle traveling south over the bridge operated by Darriean Hess, 20, of Seabrook, NH hit the group of bicyclists. Hess was transported to Portsmouth Hospital for minor injuries.
Police say Hess drifted off the center lane and hit the four bicyclists. Authorities haven’t said whether the driver will be charged.
”After the driver hit the cyclists, the driver lost control and veered back on to this side of the road and carved a path of destruction taking down safety reflectors and ultimately this sign,” Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan told WMUR TV.
The bicyclists were crossing Underwood Bridge that spans Hampton Harbor, police said.
A section of Ocean Boulevard, also known as Route 1A, was closed off while police investigated the crash.
The route typically follows the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coastlines, according to the event’s website.
The event is limited to 1,600 riders and was designed not to be a race, but rather an “enjoyable experience.” “The Seacoast Century is unique in several ways thus making it a very enjoyable experience, not a race against the clock or other riders. Traveling through areas seldom seen by general tourists makes this event quite special,” according to the website.
The event included rides of up to 100 miles on Saturday and Sunday. Riders were encouraged to follow all the rules of the road and helmets were required of all bicyclists. Their website says:
”All riders must follow all rules of the road, ride single file in traffic, not block the roadways, and walk across bridges if so directed. Rider numbers and helmets must be worn at all times. Riders will be monitored by the local police departments to help ensure safe riding practices are followed. Please help us to make this a safe and enjoyable experience for all. This is a ride, not a race! “
Responding to the scene to render emergency medical services were the Hampton Fire & Rescue, North Hampton Fire & Rescue, Seabrook Fire Department, and the Rye Fire Department. Also assisting in this investigation were members of the Seabrook Police Department, and the New Hampshire State Police.
Police said their investigation is ongoing and they are seeking help from the public. Anyone with information relating to the accident is asked to contact the Hampton Police Department at 929-4444 or the Crimeline for the Hampton at 929-1222.