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Friends of motorcyclist killed in Billings urge safety on the road

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Posted at 2:14 PM, Jun 11, 2024

BILLINGS — The Billings motorcycle community is mourning the loss of one of their own.

According to a report released by Billings Police Department Sunday, 22-year-old Joseph Louis Kelly succumbed to his injuries following a two-vehicle crash in the Billings Heights last week.

For Kelly's friends Seamis Miller-Barrell and Rocky Stone, his death is a devastating reminder to practice motorcycle safety on the road.

Miller-Barrell joined dozens of bikers as they gathered near the Rimrock Mall Sunday night for a makeshift memorial for Kelly.

Friends of motorcyclist killed in Billings urge safety on the road

“I did what’s called the circle of life for him. We solidify his legacy in a burnout in a circle,” said Miller-Barrell Monday.

It's one of the several events that happened over the weekend memorializing Kelly. He sustained fatal injuries after crashing into the passenger side of a truck on his bike last Wednesday. Billings police said Kelly was speeding, and the crash remains under investigation.

“He always put a smile on your face. You never saw Joe and didn’t have a smile on your face. If you didn’t, he made one happen,” Miller-Barrell said.

“There’s not one person that could say one bad thing about Joe. He was liked by everybody, he got along with everybody,” said Stone.

Unfortunately for Miller-Barrell and Stone, it's a familiar story.

“This is my fourth friend I’ve had to bury this year,” Miller-Barrell said.

Kelly's death is the third motorcycle fatality in Billings since the year began, according to Billings police.

“It gets really hard for me to have to like, see my friends in the hospital, to have to read about them, to have to hear about them," Stone said.

A memorial t-shirt for Joe Kelly designed by Rocky Stone

It's a heartbreaking reminder of the importance of exercising proper motorcycle safety.

“We have to give 100, 120, 200 percent of our attention. Because if we don’t, we’re going to end up seeing God,” Miller-Barrell said. "Unfortunately for Joe, it (bike helmet) did almost save his life. But he succumbed to his injuries. (The helmet) is your next best protection. You can break a couple ribs, you can break your arm, you lose this, you’re gone, forever."

Especially since motorcycle fatalities across Montana have increased over the years.

According to Montana Highway Patrol, there have been five motorcycle fatalities statewide this year so far, an increase from 2022's two fatalities and 2023's four in the same time period.

“The biker needs to understand too that, hey, there’s rules and there’s laws that need to be followed, and those laws are actually in place for your protection,” said Stone.

A memorial for Joe Kelly in Billings

Whether it's wearing a helmet or slowing down on a ride, Miller-Barrell and Stone hope Kelly's death will be the last time they have to hold another rally for this reason.

“He always made sure you were happy. You never were unhappy around Joe,” said Miller-Barrell.

“We had a meet the other night, the night that we actually let him go. We were out there and there was one star in the sky. And we were like, hey, look, it’s Joe,” Stone said.