Friends, family grieve dad killed in Durham motorcycle crash
DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Motorcycle riders from across the Triangle gathered Friday night to pay their respects to the family of a man killed in a crash Tuesday.
Investigators said 33-year-old Jonathan Oneal died when a van struck his motorcycle on Highway 55. Police charged Benjamin Brandenburg with misdemeanor death by vehicle after officers said he tried to make a left turn on Interstate 40 and ran over Oneal.
Friends from Oneal’s motorcycle club, the Durham chapter of “Clutch and Burn,” quickly shared texts of “rider down” and realized it was near the workplace of their friend, nicknamed Dolo after the Kid Cudi song Solo Dolo.
He often rode alone but always offered to join others for rides.
The Clutch and Burn leadership rushed to the scene of the crash to assess what happened.
“(The van) tried to beat the oncoming traffic and now my friend has lost his life. Now he has an 11-year-old daughter who doesn’t have a father,” the motorcycle club’s vice president Kyle “Ace” Lowrie said.
“It’s not like I want something bad to happen to him — It’s not that I want him to be in jail, but people are killing people with automobiles and they’re getting slaps on the wrist. I feel like at some point, that examples have to be set for awareness.”
Terry McKenzie said he hopes his friend’s death will not be in vain. He wants the aftermath to be an increase in motorcycle awareness.
“We’ve had too many deaths on Highway 55,” McKenzie said.
“Morning time it’s dangerous on Highway 55. People are just trying to get work. People are speeding. People are on their phones. I’ve seen people putting on makeup or texting on their phone, just whatever, not paying attention, so I can only imagine what he went through.”
Members of Clutch and Burn invited Oneal’s family to join them Friday evening at the downtown Durham restaurant Satisfaction.
Lowrie said the group wanted to meet with the Oneals without bombarding and overwhelming his parents or daughter at their homes. They also invited members of other motorcycle clubs including the Golden Honeys from Durham, as well as Raleigh-Based Turning Point and Turning Heads.
“These people are amazing. Like, I don’t understand this big production,” Oneal’s older sister Dionna said.
“It’s all love, that’s what it is. It’s like he’s still here, because this is something he would have done. It’s just like they’re another shield of protection,” she said.
“He loved to ride. He loved his family. He was just amazing. He was a protector. Even though he was my little brother by 14 months, he was my big brother.”
Dionna Oneal said she felt like she was moving in slow motion in the three-and-a-half days since her brother’s death. She said some of the time has flown past without her being fully aware — she’s been in a daze.
She said the whole circumstances surround the crash are devastating, described the way he died as “ridiculous.” She said it didn’t have to happen.
“Real justice would be to have my brother back. But since that can’t happen, you’ve got to respect the riders. Everybody has to respect the riders. That’s the only way justice is going to be (served),” Oneal said.
Other riders said their goal going forward is to prevent this from happening again, so no other family has to deal with a loss like this.
“You have to train everyone’s eye to look for a motorcycle. Everyone’s trained to look for a car, look for a person, even a bicycle, but no one is really trained to look at those motorcycles,” chapter president Carlos Goodman said.
Oneal’s mother said she was thrilled to see all of the people who participated in the Friday night celebration of her son. She said showed just how much Oneal was loved.
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