Eyewitness lost 'irreplaceable' friend in motorcycle crash

Jason Addy

James Wolverton was riding behind Jennifer Bortner just before 3:30 p.m. Sunday as they approached the intersection at East Canal Road and Lewisberry Road in Conewago Township.

Wolverton was riding Bortner's 1995 Honda Magna, and she was riding his newly purchased  1997 Harley Sportster because "she wanted to see how it felt," Wolverton said, adding that Bortner was the person who talked him into getting his motorcycle license.

After looking around the intersection, Wolverton said he saw Bortner lose control of the motorcycle she was riding.

Bortner, 36, of Paradise Township, drifted into opposing traffic and crashed into an oncoming SUV, according to Northern York County Regional Police.

Bortner, who was not wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene by Deputy Coroner Michele Kirchner at 4:11 p.m., according to a news release from the York County Coroner's Office.

She died of multiple traumatic injuries, according to the coroner's office, which has ruled her death an accident. No autopsy is planned.

The occupants of the SUV — a woman and her two young children — escaped injury, according to Northern Regional Police Lt. David Lash.

The SUV driver isn't facing charges, he confirmed.

At a loss: Bortner and Wolverton were on their way from Manchester to see Bortner's sister in Dover at the time of the crash, said Wolverton, of Wellsville.

Bortner was a very experienced rider, but she "could not recover the bike," Wolverton said, leaving him at a loss for how to explain the death of his co-worker and close friend.

Wolverton said he had known Bortner since preschool, but in the last few years, their relationship grew from that of acquaintances to that of colleagues, co-owners and good friends.

After the dental office she was managing went under several years ago, Bortner asked Wolverton about doing some paperwork for his construction company, James D. Wolverton Contracting.

In a matter of two years, Bortner went from an office assistant to owning 35 percent of the business because of her work ethic and the way she dealt with people and customers, Wolverton said.

"For the last two years, she has stood next to me almost 24 hours a day to run a business," Wolverton said. "That woman had more potential in her little fingers than most do in their entire bodies."

Wolverton called Bortner an "irreplaceable" friend and colleague and "the hardest-working, most lovable person that I have ever met." She was the type of person who had to be told to go home after working 18-hour days, and even then she usually didn't listen, Wolverton said.

Bortner was witty and sarcastic, she loved dancing and riding her motorcycle, and she could make you smile when it didn't seem possible, Wolverton said.

"She could take your worst day and within 10 minutes have you laughing and giggling and realizing that it's not that bad of a day," Wolverton said. "There are very few people that have that kind of personality where it doesn't matter if you're a hermit, if you're someone that doesn't like people — you like Jenn."

Anyone who witnessed the  crash or has information about it is asked to call police at 717-292-3647 or leave a tip online at nycrpd.org.