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Described as athletic, handsome and smart, Forrest Fukushima was just 19 years old when a drunk driver on N.M. 502 killed him in 1986.
An avid bicyclist, Forrest was training for the “Iron Horse Bicycle Classic” competition when a car driven by Alex Naranjo struck him.
According to newspaper reports at the time, a tire on Naranjo’s vehicle blew out, which made the accident “unavoidable,” according to police reports. However, sobriety tests done at the scene also revealed that Naranjo had a blood alcohol level of .18 at the time of the accident. She was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Naranjo is currently running unopposed for a municipal court judgeship in Española.
Though the tragedy has long since faded from headlines, his fellow classmates from Los Alamos High School never forgot him, and whenever they’d cross paths professionally or socially, Fukushima’s name would come up.
Now, almost 30 years later, two of Fukushima’s classmates decided to make their remembrance permanent. Lisa Hecker and Ismael Mena, classmates of Fukushima’s, worked together to install a “ghost bike” near the crash site.
Saturday morning, on the anniversary of the class of 1984’s 30th high school reunion, about 50 of Fukushima’s classmates gathered at the site, which is just east of the Totavi Phillips 66 gas station on the opposite side. Installed there, just up a slight slope is a “ghost bike.”
It’s a bike painted all in white, and is supposed to not only mark the death of a cyclist, but also to serve as a reminder to all motorists that cyclists also share the road with them.
Hecker and Mena worked together with the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation, as well as the governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo, Terry Aguilar, to have the bike installed at that particular spot.
“We never stopped thinking about him and it’s been 28 years,” Hecker said of her friend.
She said the idea came about when she was having lunch with Mena.
“(Mena) was doing a bike ride event and for some reason, he thought of Forrest and said ‘you know we should really do something for him,’” she said.
Forrest’s dad, Eiichi, and brother Craig attended the memorial, something they thought would never happen.
“One of the really interesting things that came out of this was when we contacted Forrest’s dad and brother to get their permission to do this, his father was very touched. He replied he didn’t think anyone really remembered him anymore,” Hecker said.
Eiichi gave a very touching tribute to his son at the memorial.
“It’s really nice to have this, and I’d like to thank all of you, especially Lisa and Ish (Ismael Mena) for putting this together. This event really fills a void for all of us, especially for our family,” he said.
Craig also spoke at the memorial.
“We know that you are really busy and that you have other things you could be doing, but it really means a lot to us to come down here,” he said. “I live in Kentucky now… my wife and my three kids, 7, 9 and 11… they all couldn’t be here today… Forrest would have really liked singing “Frozen” songs with my kids. I wish we could have had that.”
To learn more about the Duke City Wheelmen, log onto dukecitywheelmen.org. To learn more about the Ghost Bike memorials, go to ghostbikes.org.