By Jonathan Phelps
---- — Two North Shore women were killed Saturday morning during an annual bicycle ride in Hampton, N.H., when a car veered out of its lane and crashed into a group of riders.
Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, died from injuries received in the crash, which happened on a two-lane bridge in Hampton around 8:30 a.m., 90 minutes after the ride began. Both were pronounced dead at the hospital: Wells at Exeter Hospital; Bouchard at Portsmouth Hospital.
Two others, Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, were both transported from the scene and hospitalized with what authorities described as non-life-threatening injuries. All of the victims were participating in the 40th annual Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century ride.
Investigators have determined that the bicyclists participating in the Seacoast Century ride were traveling north on Ocean Boulevard, just starting over the Underwood Bridge, when a vehicle traveling south over the bridge — operated by Darriean Hess, 20, of Seabrook, N.H. — hit the group of riders. Hess was transported to Portsmouth Hospital for minor injuries.
Ocean Boulevard is also designated as Route 1A.
Police say Hess drifted off the center lane and hit the four bicyclists.
Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the accident, but no charges had been filed as of last night.
Family and friends mourned the loss of Wells and Bouchard over the weekend.
Bouchard rode her bicycle on a daily basis, her aunt Virginia L’Heureux said yesterday.
“Almost constantly,” she said. “She was a very big fan of cycling. She cycled all the time.”
L’Heureux said Bouchard was single and had family living in nearby Beverly and Salem. Bouchard will be remembered for living life to the fullest, she said.
“She was a beautiful girl, full of life, and we will all miss her,” L’Heureux said.
Wells’ husband, Tom Rogers, said his wife was practicing for the ride all summer long with Bouchard and Heigh. The three were friends, he said.
Uhmeyer is Bouchard’s boss.
Wells started cycling a few years ago; this would have been her first 100-mile ride, he said.
“She had been riding mostly by herself here on the North Shore and just loved the area for its back roads and scenic beauty,” Rogers wrote in statement. “Up to this summer, her longest ride might have been 40 miles.
Last week, she went out with Margo and Elise, logging 73 miles, which was a real accomplishment. She had never been in such good shape.”
Wells most recently worked as a controller for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with her eye toward retirement, Rogers said. She was also an avid gardener, and the two created a “wonderful landscape” where her memorial service will take place.
They were married for 19 years and had two children, Alex, 17, and Elise,16.
“Pam was the best thing to have ever happened to me,” he said. “We will all miss her greatly.”
Rogers said police told him they’re treating the accident as a criminal investigation.
“They have the bicycles. They confiscated her phone, and they took a blood sample. And they have her car,” he said.
The annual ride typically follows the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coastlines, according to the event’s website.
The event is limited to 1,600 riders and was designed not to be a race but, rather, an “enjoyable experience.”
“The Seacoast Century is unique in several ways, thus making it a very enjoyable experience, not a race against the clock or other riders. Traveling through areas seldom seen by general tourists makes this event quite special,” according to the website.
The event included rides of up to 100 miles on Saturday and Sunday.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Staff writer Sara Brown contributed to this report.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.