United Bikers of Maine announced Thursday, April 25, that it will no longer include a parade of motorcycles as part of its annual Toy Run.

The announcement came two days after the National Transportation Safety Board said an unsafe maneuver by a motorcyclist as well as Augusta Police and organizers of the United Bikers of Maine Toy Run are to blame for a crash that killed a Belmont man in September 2017.

"In light of the unfortunate accident, and the report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, we are eliminating the annual parade of bikes from the Augusta Civic Center to the Windsor Fairgrounds," the organization's executive board said in a press release. "All Toy Run activities will be held at the Augusta Civic Center in September 2019."

No Toy Run-related events will take place at Windsor Fairgrounds in September 2019, the press release continues, and there will not be any organized ride to or from Augusta Civic Center.

"Riders who do ride to the event as individuals or as a group, are urged to ride safely and observe all traffic laws as well as be observant to traffic around you," the board wrote. "This was a very hard decision for the UBM board to make. Given the past positive history of the Toy Run, and the safety record for this event prior to this incident, we have been very fortunate. The growing number of participants, the increased distracted drivers on the road as well as the inexperience on the part of some riders as to the proper way to ride with a large group, (have) played a big part in this decision."

The executive board states organizers have been proactive and involved in ongoing safety discussions with the police department.

"Our aim is now as it always has been," the press release states. "The safety of the rider is paramount.  We feel that this is in the best interest of all and is the next logical step."

Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills released a statement late Wednesday afternoon to the Kennebec Journal:

“The City of Augusta has reviewed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report regarding this tragic crash that occurred on September 10th, 2017. While the NTSB does not assign fault by their own disclaimer, the City of Augusta has the utmost respect for NTSB and their mission of improving safety when it comes to all forms of transportation in the United States and their best practices will be applied to the City of Augusta’s operating procedures moving forward.”

Mills said the department will work on revising its procedures for handling events such as the Toy Run.

In a report released this week, the NTSB said the initial cause of the crash was an attempted merging onto the interstate by 25-year-old Aaron White-Sevigny of Windsor, who also was killed. White-Sevigny's motorcycle was traveling at about 25 mph when he “suddenly moved out of the right lane, traveled across the center lane, and entered the left lane in front of a 2008 Ford F250 pickup ….” The truck, traveling at 56 mph, struck the motorcycle and led to a chain-reaction crash of other motorcycles participating in the United Bikers of Maine Toy Run. Another motorcycle rider, Jamie Gross, 58, of Belmont, died at the scene between exits 112 and 113 in Augusta, according to State Police.

The occupants of the pickup, William Nusom, 67, and his mother, 99-year-old Anna Nusom, who was a passenger in the vehicle, were treated for minor injuries sustained during the crash. The pickup came to a rest on its side after trying to avoid striking White-Sevigny on his motorcycle. A total of five motorcycles were involved in the crash and several others also received minor injuries and were taken to the hospital, according to the NTSB report.

The motorcyclists were part of a group of several thousand participating in the annual United Bikers Toy Run, State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said at the time, which had just departed from the Augusta Civic Center. The NTSB cited poor planning on the part of the Augusta Police Department, which did not enlist assistance from Maine State Police for traffic control on the interstate during the ride.

“According to Augusta Police Department representatives, in the past, the department has coordinated the event with the Maine State Police, which provided a state trooper to monitor the I-95 segment of the route,” the report states. “Generally, the Maine State Police posted a trooper in the gore area of the on-ramp to I-95, just past exit 112B. For the 2017 event, however, the Augusta Police Department did not notify or coordinate with the Maine State Police. As a result, no state trooper was posted on I-95 for the run.

“During the planning of the 2017 UBM Toy Run, the Augusta Police Department did not coordinate with the State Police to close lanes or provide traffic control on I-95 to accommodate the riders. Moreover, a permit from the Maine Department of Transportation is required for any interstate closure longer than 20 minutes and was required in this case.”

NTSB estimated the interstate should have had a lane closure for at least an hour to accommodate the Toy Run and that Maine DOT was never asked to issue a permit for the event. Had a permit been requested for a lane closure, it probably would have been denied, according to NTSB, because “lane closures are rarely authorized on the interstate.”

“In general, before authorizing the Toy Run, the Augusta Police Department gave insufficient consideration to the inherent hazards of introducing a motorcycle run consisting of slow-moving traffic onto an interstate with traffic operation at highway speeds; the merging of such dissimilar traffic streams without significant protective countermeasures is generally unsafe,” the NTSB stated.

It also suggested United Bikers of Maine seek a safer travel route for the Toy Run that does not direct motorcycles onto the interstate.