Riding motorcycles is a hobby for some. For others, it’s more of a religion.
“These guys are just the best guys in the world. This is the real deal. These are the guys that are really selfless, love other people, living after God,” said Senior Pastor Heath Hiatt of the Church of the Heartland.
In a tragic turn of events, two Michiana ministers from different branches of the same church were involved in separate motorcycle accidents Tuesday in St. Joseph County.
“Big” Al Ganser headed up the Biker Church of the Heartland branch in Mishawaka. “Big” Al is 6’6” tall and weighs 330 pounds.
Art “Hemi” Heminger tended to the flock in Culver. Heminger was described as hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.
“So to see both of them injured and one passed away on the same day in the bike accidents is unthinkable,” said Hyatt.
The first crash occurred Tuesday morning at about 6:30 on Mayflower Road near S.R. 23.
Al Ganser was riding his cycle to work when it collided with a car.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hemi Heminger stopped at the hospital to visit Ganser, before Heminger hopped back on his bike and set out for church.
“Biker church meets on Tuesday nights, last night, so he was supposed to speak at that event and then was not com ing and we were all kind of questioning like, ‘why’s he not here?,’” said Heath Hiatt.
Heminger died at about 3:30 p.m. near Lakeville when his motorcycle collided with a pickup truck.
Both men were instrumental in setting up an annual ride that raised money for a cause both felt strongly about.
The proceeds from “Ski’s Run” are distributed to the families of motorcycle accident victims.
“It’s just been a horrible, surreal experience,” said Pastor Hiatt. “But right now our main focus is just to love on these families.”
Both men were married. Each had two daughters. The youngest children belong to Ganser. He has daughters in high school and college.
Ganser apparently underwent some nine hours of surgery Tuesday after suffering broken ribs and broken vertebrae.
Today, Ganser reportedly managed to wiggle his toes and speak briefly with his wife.
Given the experience of both riders, the situation has rattled some lifelong bikers. “Yeah, it makes you rethink some things, so I’m not going to ride for a little while. I don’t know I’m not saying I’ll never ride again but I’m ready to close the season for me personally,” said Pastor Hyatt.
Donations for the families of Ganser and Heminger can be made through the website for the Church of the Heartlands. Click on the “Plymouth” campus and go to online donations.