The 10th annual Gene and Bam-Bam Memorial Ride will be held on Saturday, starting at New River Harley Davidson and tracing a route around the county’s volunteer fire departments.
The ride will honor fallen first responders Verona Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Collin Gene Thomas and Onslow County Sheriff's Office Deputy Steve “Bam-Bam” Boehem who lost their lives 11 years ago in a routine traffic stop on U.S. 17, according to Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jack Cavanagh III.
Thomas and Boehem, according to Cavanagh, were assisting a disabled driver in the midst of dense smoke created by a controlled burn being performed by Camp Lejeune near the Verona area. A patrol was set up to warn drivers entering the area, but an 18-wheeler failed to heed the warnings when entering the dense smoke and struck Thomas and Boehem.
“The first year we did (the memorial ride) was the year after their deaths,” Cavanagh said. “We as a group … we have been doing this together (since).”
According to Cavanagh, the ride is sponsored by the North Carolina Blue Knights Motorcycle Club Chapter VII, of which Cavanagh is a member, and the North Carolina Red Knights Motorcycle Club Chapter IX. The clubs are composed of police and firefighters, respectively, but the ride is open to members of the public.
Registration for the event begins at 9 a.m. with kickstands up at 11 a.m., according to Cavanagh. Registration is $20 and the first 100 people to register will receive challenge coins with a Blue Knights memorial for Boehem on one side and a Red Knights memorial for Thomas on the other. After the first 100, the memorial coins will be sold as will patches with the same images.
The riders will go in a procession guided by law enforcement officers, according to Cavanagh. The ride takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete and goes up U.S. 17 towards the Sneads Ferry area before circling back.
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