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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