The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 17, 2013

Disaster response team to hold tornado memorial ride

By Emily Younker

— A group of motorcycle enthusiasts who focus on disaster relief plan to hold a motorcycle ride through Joplin on the second anniversary of the May 22, 2011, tornado.

“It’s kind of a personal thing, but we want everyone to have the chance to ride through Joplin and remember everyone we lost,” said Daniel Fluharty, a member of the group.

The group, which is called the F5 Riders, focuses on disaster response. It was started in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado by Fluharty and two others, all of whom had been directly affected by the storm.

Fluharty lost his house and survived the tornado from inside the Pizza Hut restaurant at 20th Street and Range Line Road, which took a direct hit. Several customers and employees were killed, including 27-year-old manager Christopher Lucas, who was trying to hold the door of the restaurant’s walk-in freezer shut with a cord.

Lucas’ heroism in saving those who had sought shelter inside the freezer played a large role in the development of the F5 Riders, Fluharty said.

“Without him, I personally wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Fluharty said they were also inspired by the volunteers who poured into Joplin after the tornado to help with cleanup and other recovery efforts.

“The reason we started doing it is because we were helped to begin with,” he said. “It’s how we are — we help people. We don’t make a living off of it; it’s just what we do to help, to pitch in for the community.”

Since the Joplin tornado, the riders have also assisted in relief and recovery efforts of other nearby disasters.

When an EF-2 tornado hit the Branson area on Feb. 29, 2012, leaving a trail of damage particularly in rural areas, the riders were contacted by a family in Kimberling City that needed help, Fluharty said. They borrowed some equipment from a local home construction store and helped the family clean up its property, he said.

“We want to be poised so that if anything happens, a house fire, another tornado — we want to be the people who come in and help you out, or at least direct you to the people who can help you out more,” he said.

The group also plans to eventually participate in fundraising efforts for other disasters, but is waiting until it is formally registered as a nonprofit organization, Fluharty said.

To commemorate the anniversary of the 2011 tornado and honor its 161 victims, the group will lead a motorcycle ride through the disaster area and other parts of Joplin, he said. All are invited to participate.

“This is for people who do want to remember,” he said.

Ride to Remember

The F5 Riders will hold the second annual “Ride to Remember” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Riders should meet at Parkview Animal Hospital, 2508 S. Maiden Lane; the ride will follow the conclusion of memorial activities at Cunningham Park.