The Journal Gazette
Friday, May 28, 2021 1:00 am

Bikers honor victim of warehouse blast

Host fundraising dinner, auction to help widow, family

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Jonathan Strack was a friend of Zach Sparkman's for years. Strack admired his quick wit and ability to come up with a “comeback for everything.” 

But the friendship endured because of their “devotion to bikes and brotherhood,” Strack said. 

Sparkman, 34, a local truck driver, died about 9 a.m. Saturday after an explosion and fire at a warehouse on North Line Street in Columbia City. The Whitley County coroner has yet to rule on Sparkman's death, but it didn't take long for his biker brotherhood – part of the Outlaws and the United Motorcycle Enthusiasts – to rush to the aid of his family. 

On Thursday, hundreds of bikers from northeast Indiana, southern Michigan and northwest Ohio showed their support for Sparkman and his family at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and live auction at Peanuts Food & Spirits at the Marketplace of Canterbury. 

His wife, Jasmine Sparkman, described her husband as “an amazing husband and an amazing dad. He came into my kids' life about five years ago and took them on as his own,” she said at the dinner. Her children range from 5 to 10 years old.

She said she knew him from Avilla Middle School and East Noble High School and always thought he was cute, but they didn't get together until later.

A member of the Black Pistons motorcycle club, she said Sparkman's bike brothers have been by her side since her husband suffered what Strack called a “horrific death.”

The warehouse was set to be a clubhouse for the Black Pistons, she and others interviewed said. 

“This is truly family. I want people to understand that,” Jasmine Sparkman said as her best friend Karie Applegate stood next to her. Since her husband's death, she hasn't had to clean her house or cook meals. “They've come and sat with me and stayed the night with me.” 

Just after his death, a GoFundMe was created to pay the funeral expenses and provide a cushion for the family. Sparkman was called “the patriarch of the Sparkman family.” The GoFundMe is titled “Funeral Expenses for Black Piston Zack Sparkman.”

The explosion and fire are under investigation by the Indiana State Police. Two people survived the blast with minor injuries. Jasmine Sparkman said she wasn't able to speak about the accident because of the investigation.

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