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Motorcyclist tried to avert fatal crash


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POSTED: Saturday, February 28, 2009

A 44-year-old Waianae man who died while joy-riding on a motocross bike tried desperately to avoid crashing, a co-worker and friend who witnessed the accident said yesterday.

"" Wesley M. Garcia, an experienced motocross bike rider, was killed Thursday after he slid into the middle of Farrington Highway and collided with a school bus. He was the sixth motorcycle-related fatality on Oahu this year.

At about 1:15 p.m., friend and co-worker John Bollig said he and Garcia took their boss's orange 2002 KTM 520 motocross bike for a test run during their lunch break. Jon Rapoza, owner of Rapoza's Autobody & Repair Inc., who was out to lunch with his wife, had just gotten the bike back from a repair shop.

"" Garcia and Bollig took turns riding up and down Lopikane Street, a narrow roadway that runs next to the auto body shop. While riding a second time down the roadway, Garcia popped a wheelie.

Soon after, he could not slow down soon enough as he neared the end of the roadway. "He was picking up too much speed," Bollig said.

Garcia slid the bike against the ground to slow it down. The bike's rear tire swung around as he slid about 30 feet toward the middle of the highway. Bollig said the bike's rear tire struck one of the tires of the school bus, which was Makaha-bound on the highway. Upon impact the bike's rear tire blew, causing Garcia to swing underneath the bus.

Still shaken from witnessing his friend sustain fatal head injuries, Bollig said, "He tried his best to stop the bike. ... It was just a freak accident."

Garcia was taken in critical condition to Waianae Coast Comprehensive Center, where he later died. He was not wearing a helmet.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and a checkered racetrack flag to symbolize his days spent at the Kahuku Motocross Track were placed at the intersection of Lopikane Street and Farrington Highway.

Growing up, Garcia enjoyed riding motocross bikes at the track and continued to do so during his spare time. He, Bollig and Rapoza were planning to head to the track this weekend.

Rapoza, who knew Garcia since he was a child, said, "He was a lot more than a friend. He was a brother that I never had." He described Garcia as dependable and a hard worker.

Relatives and friends also described Garcia as a happy-go-lucky and loyal person. When the auto body shop faced hard economic times, Garcia stuck with Rapoza.

He worked at the shop for eight years and was talented in auto body work and car painting.

"He would make a junk car look like a Cadillac," said his sister Jesse Furtado.

Along with riding motocross bikes, Garcia enjoyed golfing, fishing, playing the ukulele and spending time with his girlfriend.

"He was a character," his sister said. "He would make a party come alive. He was so funny."

Garcia is also survived by father Wesley J. Garcia, brothers Monty and Chris, and sisters Josie Haraguchi and Edy Guerrero. Funeral arrangements are pending.