Twenty-one-year-old Chris Burcham’s love for motorcycles began when he was just a child and learned to ride trail bikes.
That passion continued throughout his life, which was cut short Tuesday in a fiery crash.
“It’s like a shock wave. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that Christopher is gone,” his godfather, Chris Loveless, said Wednesday night.
Photos and videos on Burcham’s Facebook page show a young man heavy into motorcycles, fast cars, dune buggies and almost anything that provided a thrill – including, at one point, bull riding.
Burcham and his cousins of similar age had a bit of a daredevil streak in them, Loveless said.
There are even a few photos of him popping a wheelie on his motorcycle while driving down a public street, his baseball cap in lieu of a helmet turned backward.
That’s the very thing police believe he was doing right before his death.
The Allen County coroner identified Burcham as the man killed when his motorcycle crashed into a pickup truck on East State Boulevard just west of Coliseum Boulevard on Tuesday.
“What really kills me is that he was speeding and not wearing a helmet – the two things we told him never to do,” Loveless said, adding that he was close friends with Burcham’s father when Burcham was young.
But as the years went on, Loveless tried to fulfill a father role, he said.
A witness told police Burcham was speeding east down State and had popped a wheelie before he slammed into a westbound truck making a left turn into a restaurant.
Burcham’s motorcycle hit the truck at the fuel tank, which caused it to ignite. Two men inside the truck escaped uninjured. Burcham was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Wednesday, the coroner said Burcham died from blunt force trauma. The manner of his death was ruled an accident.
It’s the 12th traffic fatality in Allen County this year, according to the coroner.
Loveless remembered his godson as the young child with whom he raced remote-control cars, yet another example of Burcham’s drive for thrill and excitement in life.
“As soon as he could ride, he was bound and determined,” Loveless said. He remembers Burcham as enthusiastic and lighthearted – someone who could roll with the punches.
His death is the third fatality involving a motorcycle in the county this year, according to the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council.
Last year, there were four fatal crashes involving motorcycles or mopeds, according to the council’s numbers, and in 2012 there were 11, the most in the county since the organization began keeping statistics in 2005.
Not counting Burcham’s death, 45 people were killed in motorcycle or moped accidents from 2005 to this year. Only two were wearing helmets.
Additionally, 22 of those victims were involved in single-vehicle crashes.
Breaking that down further, speed was a factor in half of those crashes.
Of motorcycle crashes in which the driver of a car or truck was at fault, that driver was many times failing to yield during a left turn, according to the council.
It all tells officials one thing: Safety on the roads is a two-way street.
“It’s fine that you encourage the motor vehicle drivers to be careful, but we also have to put the responsibility on the motorcyclists, too,” said the council’s Jerry Foust.
It’s unclear who was at fault in the crash that killed Burcham, police said.
Loveless hopes the tragic loss to Burcham’s family might somehow change the way some people ride.
“Maybe it’s a wake-up call for the other kids,” he said.