Safety concerns arise after deaths

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Following the deaths of two at Muddy Bottoms ATV and Recreation Park over the Labor Day weekend, the issue of safety comes to the forefront.

United States Air Force Senior Airman Dustin Reinhart, 24, died around 2:40 a.m., Sunday in an apparent accidental ATV crash. Sonya Turner, 30, of DeQueen, Arkansas, passed away around 11 p.m. to midnight Monday, Webster Parish sheriff’s officials said over the weekend.

Mike Elshout, owner of Mike’s Outdoor, works on 4-wheelers and side-by-sides on a regular basis and says while they are fun, if not handled properly, they are dangerous.

No children under the age of 16 are allowed on ATV’s over 90 cubic centimeters, Elshout says.
“That’s the size of the engine,” he said. “Most of these ATV’s, they have them up to 1,000 cc’s, 800, 700 – 90 cc is a youth model. They don’t recommend anything over a 90 cc model for youth.”
Dealers cannot sell an ATV over 90 cc’s to or for someone under the age of 16, Elshout said.
He says there are no recommendations on age limits for dirt bikes, and the reason for that is because a dirt bike is not as likely to kill someone as an ATV. The danger comes in when an ATV rolls over onto a person, he said.

“People find it hard to believe, but a dirt bike is safer than an ATV,” he said. “The problem with an ATV is any time you turn over an ATV, it’s coming after you. That’s what hurts people, when an ATV rolls over on top of you.”

Helmets are recommended, although not required, he says. The manufacturers recommend enthusiasts to wear helmets when riding. Also, if it is not designed for more than one person, then only one person needs to be riding, he added.

“Ninety percent of ATVs are designed for one person only,” he said. “It’s not recommended to put two people on them.”

Gary Jones, owner of Advanced EMS, says they respond to calls at Muddy Bottoms on a frequent basis. While the company does not keep an ambulance and personnel on site, they do respond to 911 calls for things such as low blood sugar and other medical emergencies, but the majority of them are for injuries due to wrecks, such as broken bones, lacerations, sprains and strains.

“Some are minor and some are not so minor,” he said.

He says Muddy Bottoms does a pretty good job of handling medical emergencies when they arise and thinks it’s a good thing they have medical personnel and a medical clinic on site to handle what they can before having to call an ambulance.

Phone calls and an email to Muddy Bottoms business manager Ray Delia went unanswered as of press time; however, the park’s rules and regulations are listed on their website, with No. 2, “All riding at Muddy Bottoms ATV & Recreation Park is at your own risk.”

The rules also state, “Everyone entering the property must sign a release waiver and present photo ID. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian and have a notarized release signed by both parents/legal guardian. Waivers are available on the website.

“Muddy Bottoms recommends everyone have proper safety equipment, and follow your vehicle manufacturer’s safety guidelines while operating in the park,” it continues. “Alcohol is allowed on the premises, however, all state alcohol laws apply.”

Law enforcement officials are still looking into the tragic deaths of Reinhart and Turner. Sheriff Gary Sexton says they are waiting for the coroner’s reports at this time.

“Both of them have been sent for autopsies because they are unnatural deaths,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We’re just waiting for results from the coroner’s office.”

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