Accident Marks Second Youth Fatality This Month
SAN JUAN COUNTY – August has proven to be a deadly month for young operators of all-terrain vehicles in the San Juan Mountains. In early August, a 14-year-old Florida youth died in an ATV accident in the northern reaches of Ouray County after losing control of his speeding vehicle and plunging off the side of the road. Two weeks later, on Aug. 19, another young boy lost his life in a similar accident near Silverton.
Cory Kenneth Ferrier, 10, from Steamboat Springs, died from injuries he sustained after driving over the edge of County Road 7 near the South Mineral Campground while operating an ATV in rainy conditions on the morning of Monday, Aug. 19.
The youth was following his grandmother, who was on another ATV, as his family camped nearby, said San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputy John Jacobs. The exact cause of the accident is unclear, but Jacobs believes that Ferrier became distracted when his father drove by in a pickup truck with rain gear for the pair. “When he drove by, the kid looked back over his shoulder to see dad and went off the road,” Jacobs said.
The vehicle plunged about 30 feet down a moderately steep embankment.
Jacobs said that the victim “was ejected off of the ATV, and we think from his injuries that he landed on his right side on a log, causing internal injuries and a lot of bleeding.”
The boy’s father, Kenneth Ferrier, called 911 at around 10:50 a.m. and administered CPR, but the victim was pronounced dead on the scene by responding emergency medical personnel. According to Jacobs, it was the first youth fatality on an ATV in San Juan County.
Ferrier would have been a fifth grader in his hometown of Steamboat Springs this school year. He was wearing a helmet when he died.
The accident underscores some of the enforcement issues that the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is grappling with, as more and more off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts flock to the area to recreate on county roads in the backcountry.
OHVs are a category of lightweight vehicles including ATVs as well as dirtbikes, three-wheelers and dune buggies, which Colorado does not recognize as vehicles appropriate for licensing and street use. There is currently no minimum age to operate an ATV in Colorado, although children under the age of 10 must be under the supervision of a person with a driver’s license. ATVs can travel at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, but they are not permitted to be used on paved roads or highways in Colorado, except to cross these roads or for agricultural purposes.
Individual municipalities and counties in Colorado have the authority to further regulate the use of ATVs and other OHVs on roads within their own jurisdiction. San Juan County, for example, has an ordinance which requires operators of OHVs on all county roads to be at least 16 and to have a valid drivers license and proof of insurance.
But Kurtz acknowledged that it is difficult for her small department (consisting of two deputies, an undersheriff and herself) to enforce the ordinance. Although an Alpine Ranger, shared by San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties, patrols the Alpine Loop Back Country Byway under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, Kurtz said, “to have someone that regularly patrols South Mineral Road [and other routes in San Juan County’s vast network of backcountry roads which are not on the Alpine Loop] is not in the realm of possibility.”
Nonetheless, she stressed, “It’s very dangerous to have underage drivers [on ATVs] who know nothing about road safety. A lot of times, these accidents stem from rider error.”
SILVERTON’S OHV TRIALS DEEMED SUCCESSFUL
The accident that killed Cory Ferrier occurred in the midst of an experiment that the nearby town of Silverton is conducting this summer, allowing OHV operators to drive on approved roads within the town’s core business district during three separate multi-day events. The town, like most municipalities in Colorado, is otherwise off-limits to OHVs.
The first trial happened in late July, when OHVs were allowed in town in conjunction with a four-day rendezvous of a group of dirtbike enthusiasts called the Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders. The second trial took place Aug. 7-11, in conjunction with Rally in the Mountains, a gathering of side-by-side off-road vehicle owners. These two experiments were deemed so successful that the Silverton Town Council recently approved a third trial that will take place for several days in early September.
Many Silvertonians have voiced support for legalizing the operation of OHVs on approved routes within town limits, a sentiment voiced by the majority of those attending Silverton Town Council’s Aug. 12 public hearing to review how the first two OHV trials had worked out. Business owners testified that during the two trial events, OHV enthusiasts poured into town to eat, shop and play, making a huge difference in their bottom line.
“I’d like to see it happen all summer long,” said one gift-shop owner, echoing the sentiments of most in the room. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to increase sales tax.”
Silverton Chamber of Commerce Director Rose Raab said that given the town’s currently depressed economy and declining property values, “I’m thinking the survival of Silverton may actually depend on this.”
From a law enforcement perspective, Kurtz said that she did not see any underage drivers in town during the trial events, and that the OHV operators in general were law abiding and behaved very well during the town’s tightly controlled trials.
“They [the OHV enthusiasts] were so happy to be here,” she said. “They thoroughly enjoyed their time in Silverton. It was a very successful test of how this can work.”
Other community members voiced concern about allowing ATVs on town streets, worrying that their small town could become “another Sturgis,” and emphasizing that the issue of whether to legalize ATV use within town limits on a permanent basis should go to a vote, rather than being determined by action of council.
Silverton resident Everett Lyons described the atmosphere of the town during the two trials that have occurred so far as “one part managed chaos, one part circus and a touch of Mad Max, without the violence.”
While his comments were intended as good-natured, Lyons concluded, “I thought this was a bad idea, and I still think this is a bad idea. People live here, too.”
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