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Rider dies popping wheelie

Dennis Krone had a love for speed. Wednesday he was going 80 mph.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published May 18, 2007


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The day after Dennis Krone died in a motorcycle crash, Mike Cipolla remembered him as him funny, generous and hard-working.

He showed off the custom motorcycles Krone had worked on and called the wreck a tragedy.

He didn't seem to know what else to say.

But minutes later Cipolla flagged down a reporter who was leaving the bike shop where he and Krone worked. He had one more thought.

"Dennis would want you to know he was a bad-a-- rider, " he said. "He was doing a wheelie at 80 mph and that's what can happen. He was a bad-a-- rider doing a bad-a-- trick."

He took a deep breath.

The daring wheelie that killed Krone, 26, of Clearwater was actually the second of two on Wednesday night, according to a friend.

At Nebraska Avenue, Krone pulled the wheel of his black sports bike into the air. He zoomed for almost a mile along Belcher Road until he spotted a cop at Tampa Road, said Sean Danahey, who was following behind him in a truck.

When the cop fell out of sight, Krone hit his second wheelie. It lasted for half a mile - a mile, perhaps - and it was astounding.

Krone was going 80 mph with one foot on the bike's left rear peg and the other just dangling behind him, Danahey said.

At the intersection of Belcher Road and Andrews Court he lost control.

It was 7:53 p.m. when his bike hit the curb and then the grassy median, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. Krone was wearing his helmet, but it was not enough to protect him from the violent crash.

He was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and pronounced dead at 9:37 p.m.

It was an abrupt and violent end to a life devoted to speed.

Growing up in the 700-person town of Mt. Hope, Kan., Krone loved dirt bikes. His mother, Tommie Krone, said the neighborhood kids would always come by asking him to fix their bikes.

His father, Tom Krone, was fine with his son riding dirt bikes, but he never liked the idea of the "stupid street bikes" where you can pull "antics like he was pulling."

"We had the discussion many, many times about riding motorcycles, " Tom Krone said. "When he moved down here to Florida I told him I didn't want him getting one and I knew he would."

Motorcycles became a job, not just a passion, for Krone. He worked customizing and servicing motorcycles at the Cycle Springs and Team Savage bike shop on U.S. 19.

A need for speed even runs through the family. His brother and father liked to race cars in Kansas and the Krone boys had even built hot rods together.

Wednesday's crash took a terrible toll on Krone's family and many friends.

"I'm telling you that kid made friends faster than Florida makes mosquitoes, " his mother said.

And in the hours after the news of his Krone's death, his myspace.com profile filled up with condolences.

The page's profile looks prescient in retrospect. The Web page's background is tiled with a drawing of a skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. A fierce bike painted over in flames is depicted on the site. And Krone's occupation is boldly listed as "Pulling wheelies."

"It's a damn shame that this had to happen this way, " Krone's mother said. "But you know, I would rather see this than watch him dying slowly with a bad disease like cancer or something."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

[Last modified May 18, 2007, 00:23:57]


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