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Vietnam vet deaths: Motorcycles at 50 mph before head-on crash

April 04, 2012|By David Zucchino
  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Army, a parachutist flies the POW MIA flag into Charlotte Motor Speedway during the opening ceremonies of the Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Two motorcyclists later died at the event.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Army, a parachutist flies the POW MIA flag… (Jerry Morrison/U.S. Army/AP )

Two Vietnam veterans killed in a motorcycle crash at a veterans’ celebration Saturday were traveling 50 mph in opposite directions on the Charlotte Motor Speedway track when they collided, according to a police accident report released Wednesday.

One of the veterans may have consumed alcohol prior to the head-on collision, a police spokesman told The Times.

"We have some evidence that one of the gentlemen may have been drinking,’’ Concord, N.C., Police Major Allen Overcash said in an interview with The Times.

Overcash said toxicology tests on both motorcyclists will take about a month to complete. Beer was sold at the Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration, attended by 62,500 people, including 2,000 motorcyclists.

Witnesses told newspapers that motorcyclists were driving wildly around the track, some in opposite directions, just before the collision. Killed were Thomas Franklin Hollingsworth, 71, of Piedmont, S.C., and Alan Richard Mockus, 66, of Alto, Ga.

Mockus’ wife, Deborah Lynn Mockus, 56, who was riding on the back of his motorcycle, was badly injured and hospitalized in critical condition.

The two motorcyclists were among several racing along the track at about 5 p.m. Saturday, after the event had ended, according to the police report. "There is initial evidence of alcohol use by at least one of the operators [Mockus] involved in the collision," the report said.

Barry Burke, a coordinator for the Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle club made up mostly of Vietnam veterans, told the Charlotte Observer that all motorcyclists were told to drive under 35 mph and only on an apron that runs below the actual racetrack.

The only time motorcycles were to be on the track was during opening and closing processions, Burke said. The motorcycles that collided were driving on the track about a half-hour after the closing procession of motorcycles had left the event, according to witnesses.

The motorcycles crashed head-on near a steeply banked turn, the accident report said.

"Which one was going in the 'right' direction, we can’t say at this time," Overcash said.

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david.zucchino@latimes.com

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