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Motorcyclist, 32, killed after hitting pickup that slowed for damaged van

A 32-year-old Cheektowaga man on his way to work was killed before dawn Tuesday morning on the northbound North Grand Island Bridge, when his motorcycle struck the back corner of a pickup truck in front of him that had slowed down for a disabled vehicle.

John Zbock Jr. of Beach Road, Cheektowaga, was pronounced dead at the scene following the crash, which occurred at about 6:35 on the northbound bridge at the north end of Grand Island.

"It's a tragedy," State Police Capt. Michael Nigrelli said. "The guy was doing nothing but going to work." Authorities have absolutely no indication that drugs or alcohol was involved.

The fatal crash closed the northbound North Grand Island Bridge throughout rush hour Tuesday morning, and a later five-car pileup on the southbound bridge caused problems on that span, state police reported.

The first crash occurred after the driver of a red pickup truck slowed down behind a disabled van in the right lane, according to police reports. The motorcyclist was right behind the pickup truck.

Troopers later determined that Zbock apparently was attempting to move into the passing lane, when his motorcycle struck the side tail light of the pickup truck, causing him to lose control.

Both Zbock and his motorcycle went airborne, and he landed under a tractor-trailer in the passing lane.

But investigators don't know whether Zbock was attempting to pass the slowed vehicles in front of him or just trying at the last instant to avoid a collision.

"I think the lesson here really is that when you're on a highway, you always have to pay attention, to make sure you have enough room to move from lane to lane, whether you're in a car, a truck or a motorcycle," Nigrelli said

Following the fatal crash, motorists on the southbound bridge between Niagara Falls and Grand Island began rubber-necking, resulting in a five-vehicle crash that was reported at 7:23. Authorities reopened the southbound bridge at about 8:20.

Authorities reopened the northbound bridge at about 9:50. But it was closed throughout the morning rush hour, leaving huge northbound backups that extended to Whitehaven Road.

During the rush-hour tie-ups, anyone who wanted to leave Grand Island had to leave on the southbound bridge, Trooper Daniel Golinski said.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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