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Friends remember man killed in collision with patrol vehicle

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 31, 2015

 Friends light lanterns in Bush’s honor on the football field of Lake Shore High School, where he was captain of the football team during his senior year, 2012-13.

Friends light lanterns in Bush’s honor on the football field of Lake Shore High School, where he was captain of the football team during his senior year, 2012-13.

Photo by Deb Jacques


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A great athlete, a safe driver and a kindhearted person is how friends and family say they remember 20-year-old James Bush.

“He was a kid that just would always lend a helping hand. No matter what it was, he would do what was asked of him,” said Steve Belcourt, of St. Clair Shores, Bush’s uncle.

Bush, of St. Clair Shores, died July 22 when the motorcycle he was driving and a St. Clair Shores police patrol vehicle collided while the officer was attempting to make a traffic stop on another vehicle on Eight Mile Road, east of Beaconsfield.

Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Mike Shaw said July 30 that state police are not releasing a description yet of how the crash occurred because the crash reconstructionist is still more than a week away from finishing the report.

“There’s dash cam video and other evidence that points to exactly what occurred out there,” he said.

But, he added, reports that the police officer made a U-turn in front of Bush are not true.

“The portion of the U-turn in front of the motorcycle is not factual,” he said.

When the crash reconstructionist is through and the investigation is complete, a report will be submitted to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review, since the crash occurred just inside the Harper Woods border.

The officer involved in the crash has not been named at this time, but the officer has been placed on administrative leave per St. Clair Shores Police Department policy.

Bush was captain of the Lake Shore High School football team during his senior year of 2012-13. Lake Shore Quarterback Club President Craig Manning said Bush was a “monster athlete,” and he had just seen Bush the day before he died.

“When someone went down, he was there for them,” Manning said. “He was a stand-up athlete.”

Belcourt said Bush was an only child and was on his way home from work at UPS, only a mile away from the house he shared with his mother, when the crash occurred. Now, Belcourt said, Bush’s friends are stepping up to support his mother, Christina Reffle.

“He’s got five guys that he went to elementary school with that he hung around with all the time,” Belcourt said. “They’ve been over every day, and it’s just amazing the guys that are so close. His mom just has such a great support system from them. They’re making sure she’s doing good. It’s awesome.”

Ross Leadmon, of St. Clair Shores, said he and his friends want to make sure Reffle is taken care of during this hard time.

“We’re going to make sure she lives her life to the fullest,” said Leadmon, who graduated with Bush.

He said they were shocked to hear the news because, of Bush’s two motorcycles, the one he was riding — a Magna — was the one he took when he was just cruising and not in a rush.

Now, he said, all of the friends are sticking together.

“We’ve been hanging out a week straight,” he said July 29. “We’re all here for each other. That’s all we really can do.”

Bush also is survived by his father, Thomas Bush, of Novi.

Friends and family gathered for a candlelight vigil and lantern release ceremony July 29 at Lake Shore High School to send prayers to Bush.

Belcourt said Bush was always cautious on his motorcycle and was wearing a helmet the day of the crash.

“When we first got the news, we were just all in shock. We couldn’t believe it,” he said. “He was always safe. He was always cautious. That’s why we kind of all were at ease with him driving motorcycles, because he was always so cautious.”

The family understands that the investigation will take time to complete, but Belcourt said he hopes that other drivers will gain a better awareness of the motorcyclists sharing the road.

“We just want ... awareness,” he said. “A lot of people still don’t have awareness of motorcycles, and that’s a shame.”

“He was a real hardworking guy, worked real hard to achieve what he had,” Leadmon said of Bush. “He was waiting on his 21st (birthday) to expand his career and become a driver with UPS.

“He had a lot of plans. It’s just hard to see everything cut short.”

Friends and family have set up a page at to help assist the family with funeral expenses.

Motorcyclist in unrelated crash dies
A 46-year-old man from Macomb Township who was ejected from his motorcycle after hitting the back of a vehicle on Interstate 94, near 12 Mile Road, around 1 a.m. July 24 has died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the crash.

Police said a passenger vehicle was stopped on the right shoulder, and when the driver re-entered the freeway in the right lane, he saw a motorcycle coming up behind him at a high rate of speed. The motorcycle reportedly struck the back of the vehicle, and the driver, Marc Kirouac, was ejected upon impact. The driver of the vehicle was not injured.

Michigan State Police said an investigation into that crash is ongoing, as well.