A motorcyclist was killed three miles south of Payson on Highway 87 Saturday, the third fatal motorcycle wreck in recent weeks.

Robert Frank Welch, 50, and his girlfriend were riding northbound on State Route 87 just after 10 a.m. in the passing lane. A Chevrolet Suburban reportedly pulled out in front of their motorcycle from the median crossover, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Welch, known as “Gnome,” was vice president of the Old Bastards Motorcycle Club Salt River. He and his girlfriend were on their way to Payson to participate in the club’s annual Runnin’ with the Pups fundraiser for the Humane Society of Central Arizona.

“They were near the Jim Jones Shooting Range area,” said Dan “Coyote” Shover, president of the Old Bastards Motorcycle Club Payson. “The white SUV T-boned him — he had nowhere to go. His girlfriend, “Tumbles,” went through the vehicle and ended up inside. She is still in ICU.”

Welch died on scene. His girlfriend was airlifted to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital Osborn, according to a DPS spokesperson.

“He’s been a brother of ours for over four years,” said Shover. “He will be missed.”

The driver of the Chevrolet SUV was cited for failure to yield. There was no evidence of impairment, according to DPS.

Other wrecks

On the afternoon of July 6, Harry Daniel Lajoie, 74, of Camp Verde, died on State Route 260 between Payson and Camp Verde, according to DPS.

Lajoie’s Honda motorcycle reportedly went off the roadway near milepost 237. He was thrown 30 feet down an embankment. He died on scene.

And at 9 a.m. on June 29, Joseph Graci, 65, of Apache Junction, died on State Route 87 at milepost 232.

For unknown reasons, the black 2014 Harley-Davidson motorcycle Graci was on with another rider went down. Graci died at Banner Payson Medical Center. The condition of the other rider is unknown.

Editor Alexis Bechman contributed to this story

Recommended for you

(1) comment


Pathetic how poor drivers are this day and age. Especially when it comes to motorcycles. Stop being in such a hurry and LOOK before you move into traffic

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Avoid obscene, hateful, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful.
Be Nice. No name-calling, racism, sexism or any sort of -ism degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. Real names only!