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KYLE RABE

Our names are Sue and Tom Rabe. Our son was killed on a four wheeler. We live in a rural area of Oregon and most of our neighbors have acreage. It’s not uncommon for kids to visit each other by riding ATVs on a network of dirt and gravel roads and through farmers’ fields. On May 6, 2020, Kyle went to visit his friend Zach at about 5:30 pm. They had been waiting for the grass to grow in a nearby field so that they could ride through it and leave “trails”. After about a half hour, they went back to Zach’s house, had milk and cookies and got ready to come back to our house for dinner. Kyle took a little extra time getting all his riding gear on and left a few minutes after Zach. He took a short cut down a gentle slope and either hit a rut or a stick in his path and lost control of the ATV. It made a sharp turn to the left, throwing him down the hill and then rolled up on its’ side with its’ rear utility rack in the small of Kyle’s back. Unconscious and pinned to the ground, although not seriously injured, he was unable to breath. Zach got to our house and realized Kyle wasn't behind him. He retraced his path, found Kyle and then got his Dad to help lift the ATV off of Kyle. I got to the scene about 15 minutes after the accident and began to administer CPR Holding my little boy in my arms, I felt the warmth drain out of his body. In a few horrible moments of breathing for him and tasting the cookies and milk on his breath, I came to the awful realization that I had been wrong to let him ride a full sized ATV. Kyle was almost 11 years old. He had been riding for over a year and a half without any accidents. He was a very cautious, skilled rider wearing boots, gloves, several layers of clothing and a full face, approved helmet. Many people have told me that he could ride as well as any adult. I think that is true. But when he lost control and hit the ground, he was just a little boy.

Four wheelers are a wonderful tool for farmers and land owners. They are an incredible amount of fun and when matched to the rider, generally safe. They're easy to ride and seem very stable. It is no wonder that parents feel its okay for their children to ride full sized ATVs and will fight to protect their right to do so. But they're wrong. Imagine strapping a lawn chair to the top of a Volkswagen and then riding over rough terrain at nearly freeway speeds. That’s roughly equivalent to a child on a full sized four wheeler. For several weeks I watched the grass in the neighbors’ field grow and saw the “trails” slowly disappear. The memories of my son and the last time I held him will never go away. I only hope that by sharing Kyle’s story, other children will be saved and parents spared the weight of our burden.

Tom, Kyle’s dad forever.

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