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Base loses new member in motorcycle mishap

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Airman 1st Class Dustin Pierce, Air Force Technical Applications Center, died Dec. 28 as the result of a one-vehicle motorcycle accident in Cocoa Beach.

The accident occurred at about 1:15 p.m. on Florida Highway A1A just north of State Road 520, said Base Mortuary Affairs Officer Greg Firkel. The accident was investigated by the Cocoa Beach Police Department, Brevard County Coroner's Office, AFTAC Safety Office and 45th Space Wing Safety Office.

Airman Pierce, 22, was riding his motorcycle with a friend, Airman Christopher Dale, AFTAC, who was riding another motorcycle. Airman Pierce lost control of his motorcycle. It laid over on its side, left the road and struck a sign post, police investigators said. Airman Pierce was knocked off the bike. He struck a second sign post and died at the scene as the result of blunt-force trauma, officials said. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Airman Pierce joined the Air Force in April 2006. He graduated technical school, and was assigned in mid-November to AFTAC, where he was in training to become a seismic analyst, said his supervisor.

"He came from tech school, went to AFTAC, got his clearance, and was in processing and doing JKDCs -- our version of CDCs," said Staff Sgt. Adam Poulin.

Airman Pierce was wearing all the correct protective gear, including a helmet, said Mr. Firkel. He completed the required Beginning Motorcycle Rider's Course on base Dec. 17, and acquired his motorcycle Dec. 22, said Chief John Nederhoed, AFTAC first sergeant.

The chief said he spoke Dec. 4 about motorcycle safety to Airman Pierce, as a newly arrived troop.

"I asked him the standard question, 'Do you have a motorcycle?' He said, 'I don't have one, but I'm going to get one,'" said Chief Nederhoed. "He'd only been in the Air Force since April, but he had ridden motorcycles prior to coming in the Air Force.

Chief Nederhoed said he explained the Air Force requirements for on-base riding to Airman Pierce.

"The medical examiner said he had good boots and leathers, and he didn't skimp money on his helmet.," he said. "They went for an afternoon cruise on bikes. One investigating officer said it was a fluke, a freak accident. Eliminate one of four or five factors, and he'd still be alive."

Airman Pierce is survived by his parents, William and June Pierce, New Palestine, Ind.

A memorial service for Airman Pierce was held Jan. 4 at the Seaside Chapel. The funeral was Jan. 5 in Indiana.

The loss of a member is very difficult on the unit -- and the family, said Chief Nederhoed.

"Mr. Pierce said he was appreciative the Air Force practices what it preaches about being a family," he said. "He said he was proud of the time his son was in the Air Force, and had nothing but praise for us."