MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Drivers often dodge them on the highway -- shredded tire fragments. A large piece of tire debris is being blamed for the death of a Mobile woman on I-10 Sunday night. It's being called a freak accident.
It started as a day of fun and fellowship among bike enthusiasts. About 50 members of the Sixth Gear Motorcycle Club rode their bikes to New Orleans Sunday. Tajuana Williams, 37, belonged to the Mobile chapter. Williams and her boyfriend decided to head home to Alabama Sunday night.
"We got a phone call that one of our members had went down ahead of us," said Robert Henderson.
Henderson is the founder of Sixth Gear Motorcycle Club, headquartered in Moss Point. His group came across the accident scene on I-10 in Hancock County. They learned that a whole tire tread was lying on the interstate in Hancock County.
The state Highway Patrol said a car hit the piece of rubber, tossing it into the air. The big chunk of tire hit the motorcycle, causing it to spin out of control. Both riders were thrown off the bike.
"To lose a member that you love and care for, and you feel for her immediate family. It's a tragedy. It touched all of us deeply," said Henderson.
"I can't believe this happened," said Shelia Jones, the group's secretary.
Jones and other shocked friends remember Williams, known as "Miss T," as a bike lover and a good friend.
"We clicked. She introduced me to most of everybody. And it was easy to talk to her and have fun," said Jones.
"We're like a family here. We all get along. We all ride together once a month," said Henderson.
Now, this family is trying to cope with their first fatality.
"We've had some people go down, myself for one," said Eric Nichols, a member of the club. "We go down, because this is what we do. But to lose somebody, never.
Members said the accident could not have been avoided. However, the tragedy has made them think seriously about safety.
"It's going to make us more aware of what's on the road," said Jones.
"We make sure that we have a prayer first before we leave here," said Henderson. "We ride staggered, we do the limit, we take care of each other."
And, they're planning to dedicate the next bike ride to Miss T.
"Oh, we're going to ride," said Nichols. "We're going to ride for her. She'll have a big ride."
Williams' boyfriend, Clarence Bradley of Mobile, suffered serious injuries. He was transported to Memorial Hospital in Gulfport. The State Highway Patrol says that same piece of tire debris caused heavy damage to three other vehicles Sunday night before it was removed.