Motorcyclists rally to raise awareness for safety after 3 deaths in two days

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Three deaths in two days; all motorcyclists, and all died, according to family and law enforcement, because of other drivers on metro roads.

FOX 4's Rebecca Gannon was in the West Bottoms on Sunday, where more than 50 motorcyclists gathered for a ride through the metro. The reason, they said, was two-fold: to remember the three men killed, and to raise awareness of motorcyclists on area roadways.

“He was the apple of my eye; he was the apple of my eye,” said Dixie Manlief Sunday afternoon of her grandson, Zach Gertson. “I was with him every single day.” Gertson was killed on Wednesday, March 22, when he was riding south on Antioch Road near the intersection of Vivion Road in the Northland, and a car turned in front of him.

Manlief said she’ll miss his smile the most. “He was a good son,” she said, “a good grandson, good cousin - he was just a great kid, a great kid.”

She said Gertson loved to ride his motorcycle. “He said it's the closest he could get to flying. He felt the freedom.”

That’s a feeling many other motorcyclists say they enjoy. But they say it can come at a cost.

“People just aren't watching out for us - and it’s dangerous,” said Kenneth Woodward. He’s been on a bike for almost 40 years, and has seen a lot, including seeing two other men die on motorcycles last Thursday, March 23.

Matthew Dorn, father of two, died in Independence when police say an SUV turned in front of him. Bob Draeger, also a father, died in Oak Grove, when the Missouri Highway Patrol says a semi-truck turned in front of him.

“If we're 30 feet away from you, we're going to slide into the side of your car,” said Woodward, adding two-wheeled vehicles can’t stop on a dime.

Police say that in at least one of the fatal crashes, speed was a factor – but the family firmly disputes that.

Brandy Dodson was the lead rider for Sunday rally. “We're riding for Zach, and Matt, and Bob,” she said, “The three fatalities in the last week.”

She reiterated the need for vigilance. “We are here. We're not going anywhere. We need you to watch for us.”

As spring turns to summer, more motorcycles will be on the road. The bikers and their families worry there will be more deaths – and more rallies like Sunday’s. “We have to watch out for the bikers,” said Gertson’s grandmother. “They deserve the space on the road too.”

These three deaths don't count the numerous injury accidents that happened in the Kansas City area in the last week. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were almost 5,000 motorcyclists killed in 2015 and more than 88,000 injured.