The victim of a fatal all-terrain vehicle crash Wednesday on the northern Sonoma Coast has been identified as a 14-year-old Fort Bragg resident whose death is the latest to illustrate the potential hazards of the motorized four-wheelers.
In June, two ATV drivers were killed in accidents near Willits and Knights Valley, and three others have been injured this year in Sonoma County accidents.
The CHP said Ryan Kinney had been camping with his father and friends in private timberland off Annapolis Road near Highway 1 when he drove off on an ATV at about 2 p.m. Wednesday and failed to return.
Fellow campers worried by his absence after two hours went in search of the teen, resulting in a grim discovery at about 5:30 p.m., the CHP said.
Kinney had lost control of the 2000 Yamaha vehicle on a fire road several miles from camp, causing the ATV to roll onto him, law enforcement and fire personnel said.
It remained unknown what caused Kinney to lose control. Authorities were still investigating, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said, and few details were available.
But there are enough accidental injuries and deaths related to use of the popular off-road vehicles that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains a running tally.
California leads the nation in fatalities with at least 628 out of a reported 11,688 between 1982 and 2011, according to a February CPSC report. That number is expected to rise with continued collection of data from the later years in the study.
Nationally, about quarter of the dead were children age 15 and younger, the report said. Nearly half of those were under age 12.
More than 100,000 others are injured around the nation each year including at least 107,500 people of all ages in 2011, the CPSC said.
More than half of all ATV injury accidents result in head, neck, back or other, often crushing, injuries to the torso, the report said.
Locally, a 29-year-old Calistoga woman died June 6 after driving off alone on an ATV in the Knights Valley area of Sonoma County, authorities said.
Corey Anne Considine died one day after a similar crash outside Willits took the life of 22-year-old Willits resident Josh James Zerikotes, the CHP said.
At least three others have been injured this year in Sonoma County while riding ATVs.
Sloat said the rural nature of the region, where ATVs are popular for ranching and for recreation, accounts for a large number in use.
Since the industry voluntarily began substituting four-wheelers for three-wheeled vehicles in advance of a regulatory mandate, they have become more stable, he and others said.
But there are no licensing requirements or age limits for those who choose to use the vehicles.
Laws in force for vehicle operations on public roads don't apply, though Kinney was wearing a helmet, CHP personnel said.
The vehicles' ability to traverse all manner of rutted, rocky, sloped and uneven ground may contribute to accidents.
But advocates also fear that their common usage by young people means many ATV drivers lack well-developed judgment and skill.
"It just all depends on how they're used," Sloat said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.