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Friends mourn biker’s crash death

Brandon Perkins, 23, died Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a sports utility vehicle on North Thornydale Road near West Lambert Lane.

Brandon Perkins, 23, died Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a sports utility vehicle on North Thornydale Road near West Lambert Lane.

Friends of a Tucson motorcycle rider who died last week after colliding with a sports utility vehicle are shocked, saddened and outraged at the initial reports of the crash.

Brandon Perkins, 23, was riding north on North Thornydale Road around 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 when he collided with an SUV at an intersection of West Lambert Lane.

Fellow motorcycle riders and friends are holding two memorials in his honor, said Perkins’ girlfriend, Madison Pope. The first is a memorial ride on Sunday and the second will be a candlelight memorial sometime next week,

Initial reports from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said it was unclear whether Perkins’ headlight was on at the time of the crash.

“We’re trying to figure out where that information came from,” Deputy Ryan Roher said Thursday. He said there was no indication that the headlight had been off while Perkins was riding along that dark stretch of road at night.

Another sheriff’s report said Perkins’ helmet was found at the crash site but not on his head, perhaps with the straps cut. Roher said the straps had not been cut, but the chin strap was missing altogether.

Pope, 20, a motorcyclist herself, said Perkins’ Scorpion helmet had a safety feature in which the straps could come off if they were caught on something.

“I watched him strap on his helmet,” Pope said of Perkins leaving her house before the crash. “I kissed the top of it.”

Roher said the speed of the motorcycle is still being investigated. He said the speed limit in that area is 45 mph.

“There is no question his speed was definitely an issue,” Lt. Karl Woolridge said. “He suffered catastrophic injuries.”

The SUV with which Perkins collided was driven by a 17-year-old girl who is not being named because she is a minor.

“There is no question she failed to yield,” Woolridge said, but it still needs to be determined how much of a factor the motorcycle’s speed played in the crash.

Woolridge said because motorcycles have only one headlight, it’s hard for other motorists to determine how far away they are or to perceive their speed.

“There may still be citations,” he said.

Perkins’ friends are trying to make sense of the tragedy.

“Tucson deserves to know that he wasn’t just some maniac on a motorcycle who drove fast,” friend Brooke Menke said. “He was a great friend who was loved by many and will always be missed.”

His family in Oregon includes his dad, stepmother, stepsister and younger brother, Robert, who sold his car to come to Tucson after Perkins’ death. Perkins moved to Tucson on his own in his mid-teens and stayed with best friend Daniel Caldwell.

“He was more like a brother than a friend,” Caldwell said. “My mom and dad even considered him a son.”

Perkins also had a 2-year-old daughter, Emily. Pope said it was hard to stay in contact with Emily’s mother and she did not let him visit his daughter as often as he liked.

“He never complained once,” Menke said. “He had a tough life from the get-go and he always worked. But he always made it through the day with a smile on his face.”

Many said Perkins could be “goofy,” funny and had a quick smile. He was also a support for the serious stuff, a person to talk to, a shoulder to lean on.

“Anything anyone needed,” Menke said, “Brandon would help with.”

A night manager at Bashas’ supermarket, where he had just been promoted and was heading at the time of the crash, Perkins was in line for a day manager job at Fry’s, Pope said. She and Perkins had just gotten back together after a split and he was gathering strength to fight harder for visitation with his daughter. Caldwell said he was also excited about his brand-new bike.

“He had three passions,” Caldwell said in an e-mail. “Riding, his family/friends and his daughter.

“His life was just starting to turn in the right direction. He was finally starting to cut through the animosity and make it for himself. If ever there was a man that deserved better it was Brandon Bristol Perkins.”

“He was like superman, invincible,” Pope said. “This accident made him human.”

The memorial ride is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday and will include a barbecue, Pope said. Riders should meet at the Albertsons at 6600 E. Grant Road, at the corner of East Tanque Verde Road, and may bring food for sharing.

Day of the Dead: Crime reporter Ryn Gargulinski chronicles unnatural deaths around Tucson.

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