OCEAN CITY — The local community is dealing with both grief and anger this week after a 20-year-old Bishopville man and Stephen Decatur graduate was killed in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident on Route 90 and his helmet, which topped an impromptu memorial at the crash scene, was stolen just days later.
Around 2:20 p.m. last Friday, Maryland State Police troopers responded to eastbound Route 90 just east of St. Martin’s Neck Rd. for a reported single-vehicle accident involving a motorcycle. The investigation revealed the operator and sole occupant, identified as Brandon Matthew Richardson, 20, of Bishopville, had lost control of the 2003 Kawasaki ZX-6 and collided with the guardrail in the center median.
Richardson, a Private-First Class in the Army National Guard, was pronounced dead at Atlantic General Hospital. The investigation is ongoing, but what is known is that Richardson was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. That same helmet became a source of considerable grief and anguish later in the week when it was stolen from impromptu memorial created at the crash scene by Richardson’s family members.
Not long after the tragic accident last Friday, family members prepared a memorial along the eastbound side of Route 90 between the two bridges where the accident occurred. The memorial included a large cross adorned with Richardson’s camouflage Army National Guard fatigue jacket, an American flag and topped with the helmet he was riding at the time of the accident, a black KBC Tarmac with a white tribal design and red pinstripes.
Family and friends visited the memorial throughout the weekend and into Monday, when it was discovered the helmet had been stolen. With so many people visiting the memorial, the possible time of the theft has been pinpointed to between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday. According to Richardson’s uncle, Mike Richardson, the helmet was there around 6:30 p.m. on Monday and was noticed missing about 30 minutes later.
“It was one of Brandon’s helmets that we placed there along with his camouflage shirt from the Army National Guard,” said Mike Richardson this week. “Honestly, we just want the helmet back. We don’t want anyone to get in trouble. We just want it back because of the sentimental value.”
Yesterday morning, family and friends were angered again briefly when it appeared the entire memorial had been stolen sometime overnight on Wednesday or early Thursday morning. However, it later turned out the State Highway Administration (SHA) and the Maryland State Police had moved the shrine to the MSP yard in Berlin out of concern for traffic safety. Vehicles had been stopping along the busy Route 90 corridor to pay their respects or take pictures.
Mike Richardson retrieved the memorial and was taking it to the memorial service for Brandon Richardson at the Community Church of Ocean Pines yesterday afternoon and a wake at the Bishopville Fire Hall. However, the helmet is still missing and believed to have been stolen.
The Oasis Bar and Grill has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the return of the helmet. Anyone with information about the helmet is urged to call the Ocean City Police Department at 410-723-6610.
Meanwhile, several witness statements were obtained and an accident reconstructionist responded to the scene to investigate further. The accident last Friday snarled traffic in all directions during a busy weekend afternoon. Route 90 westbound was closed at Route 589 and eastbound Route 90 was closed at its eastern terminus in Ocean City for well over an hour, forcing traffic to be diverted away from one of the main entrances to the resort.