Thursday, September 07, 2006

Chopper builder involved in fatal crash

Half a dozen motorcycles, ranging from custom chrome to a well-worn Indian, stood outside local motorcycle legend Billy Lane's Melbourne store Tuesday afternoon, announcing that the shop was open.

But inside it was not business as usual.

The mood in the store was somber, and employees had been instructed not to speak to reporters.
"I'm sorry. We have no comment," said the greeter at the store.

Lane, who has appeared on the Discovery Channel's "Biker Build-Off" and "Monster Garage," was injured in a head-on traffic accident Monday night that killed a man riding a small moped.

The 9 p.m. accident involving the 36-year-old Lane, a resident of Melbourne Beach, occurred on State Road A1A south of Melbourne Beach near Ballyshannon Street. Florida Highway Patrol investigators said Lane was trying to pass two other vehicles on a double yellow-lined portion of A1A when his southbound 2006 Dodge Ram pickup collided with a northbound 1983 Yamaha moped.

The motorcyclist, identified as 56-year-old Melbourne Beach resident Gerald Morelock, was wearing a helmet. He suffered extensive injuries during the collision with the pickup and was pronounced dead at the scene. No further information was available about Morelock.

"Lane hit the motorcycle head on, and then the pickup hit a power pole," said Kim Miller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick O'Neill confirmed Morelock was riding the small motor bike, which was "street legal."

For almost 20 years, Lane has made a name for himself building custom choppers with innovative and artistic designs, admitting he has a flair for the extravagant. One of his creations, the Psycho Billy Cadillac -- featuring a hollow back wheel -- won several national awards, including one sponsored by Easy Rider magazine.

When he appeared on the hit television show "Monster Garage," Lane helped transform a Mustang into one of the world's fastest lawnmowers. Working with five other "gearheads," Lane designed the machine to break the 14-minute record held for trimming the grass on a football field.

Miller said a passenger in the custom-painted black pickup, identified as 22-year-old Erin Derrick of Rockledge, was also injured in the crash. Lane and Derrick were taken to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.

Lane, a tattooed, dreadlocked motorcycling enthusiast, was semi-conscious at the accident scene. Lane was treated and released while Derrick remained in stable condition, hospital officials said.
Lane's close friend Steven Casanova, a Melbourne attorney, was stunned to hear about the accident. Casanova said Lane is not your "typical biker."

"Billy is a very low-key guy, but he's incredibly intelligent, " Casanova said. Lane has an engineering degree.

Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigators said no charges were filed, but they were waiting on the results of blood-alcohol tests, which were sent to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement state lab in Orlando for evaluation.

The results, part of the traffic investigation, could take up to eight weeks to return. The State Attorney's Office, however, said blood-alcohol results could be back much sooner.

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