Two young Fort Bragg-area brothers died Tuesday evening after a crash of an all-terrain vehicle on the rural property where they lived.
Carter and Silas Wilson, ages 8 and 6, respectively, were riding together when the vehicle hit an embankment.
The CHP is investigating whether the boys were riding alone and how experienced a driver the older boy was. Mendocino Sheriff's Office detectives, meanwhile, still were conducting interviews to determine what happened.
The accident happened shortly after 7 p.m. on the property where the boys lived with their mother, Heather Perkins. Perkins' parents, Raymond and Karan Perkins, lived in a house on the same property.
The homes are off Highway 20 between Fort Bragg and Willits. The brothers had been wearing bicycle-style helmets but weren't using the vehicle's restraints.
The older boy had been driving across a grassy pasture when the ATV hit a dirt embankment, causing the vehicle to go into the air. It landed on its front end, throwing the younger boy to the ground.
The vehicle then continued on, throwing the older brother off, the CHP said.
Officers are not yet sure how fast the vehicle was traveling when it hit the embankment.
Six-year-old Silas died at the scene. Carter died at Mendocino Coast District Hospital.
The boys were Heather Perkins' only children, according to her sister, Jayme Johnson of Fort Bragg. The father does not live in Fort Bragg, she said.
Johnson declined to comment on the details about how the accident occurred or whether the boys were experienced drivers. The accident was discovered by Heather Perkins, she said.
"She was not with them. She did find them," Johnson said. "The details are still not clear."
"Right now we want to keep things pretty private so we can grieve," she said.
Johnson described the boys as avid gardeners who loved to roam the property with their grandfather. "They loved living on the ranch, being outside, building forts," Johnson said. "They were loud and crazy and always dirty."
"People who met them were lucky to have met them because they made a lasting impression," she said.
Services are not yet planned, Johnson said. "Our family is still grieving, still in disbelief, so we haven't even gotten to that process yet," she said.
Sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten did not release the names of the boys, saying the investigation has not been completed and, under Coroner's Office regulations, he can withhold the names until the office issues death certificates, which had not been completed by Wednesday afternoon.
"I want to follow that procedure in this case," he said.
It was the latest in a series of serious ATV accidents this year in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
In August, a 14-year-old Fort Bragg youth died in a crash. Two people died in June in accidents near Willits and Knights Valley and at least three other people in Sonoma County have been injured.
(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)