Coroner looks at ATV safety after Kootenay tragedy
The BC Coroners Service is looking at ways to prevent further tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a four-year-old Glade boy this week.
Isaac Robert Zukowski died in Sunday’s all-terrain vehicle rollover on a forestry road between Nelson and Castlegar.
He was a passenger on a quad driven by his stepfather when it struck a drainage ditch and flipped, landing on top of them. The boy died at the scene, 14 km up Midslope Forest Service Road, while his step-dad was flown to hospital in Trail by helicopter with serious injuries.
Police say there is no evidence excessive speed or recklessness was a factor and no driving-related charges are expected. They have turned the investigation over to the coroners service.
Spokeswoman Barb McLintock said as with any accidental or child’s death, they will try to find anything that might prevent similar deaths — although recommendations have to be “reasonable and practical.”
ATV use is largely unregulated in BC, with no minimum age to be either a driver or a passenger, but McLintock wasn’t sure it would be practical to ban young children from such machines.
“How you’d enforce it I’m not sure,” she said in an interview. “But it’s an interesting question. All of these things can be looked at by the coroner who, especially in child deaths, can take a fairly broad view.”
She added something else to be considered is protective equipment, but in this case everything was done correctly, as the boy wore a helmet and goggles.
Although she knew of other ATV fatalities in BC involving children 9-12 as well as teenagers, she couldn’t recall any others with a victim this young.
“A four-year-old is certainly unusual,” she said.
Gordon Galloway, the Elkford-based safety chair with the Quad Riders ATV Association of BC, said the organization has a standard set of safety recommendations for all riders.
These include taking a safety course, which explain hazards to riding, clothing, and environment, and following manufacturers’ recommendations that appear on each model. (The machine involved in Sunday’s incident was a Can-Am 1000, according to police.)
Galloway said there are many safety instructors throughout the province and age restrictions on the club’s courses:
• Those for ages six to 11 are limited to four participants, must have parents present, and have a maximum ATV size.
• For those ages 12 to 15, parents “should” be present, class sizes are capped at six but recommended at four, and slightly larger ATVs are allowed.
• For those 16 and over, parents are not required, class sizes are a maximum of eight and there is no ATV size limit.
Despite safety precautions, “we also understand accidents happen, and this is one with the gravest of outcomes,” Galloway said in an email. “We hope we can learn from these so as to make further recommendations to riders, and try to prevent these tragedies. There may be many causes.”
Galloway extended condolences to the family and hoped everyone appreciated the risks involved, “to help us be safer riders while partaking in our sport in the backcountry.”
The site of Sunday’s crash is off Highway 3A near BC Hydro’s Kootenay Canal and Rover Creek Forest Service Road. Midslope Road, which branches off at the 8 km mark, has been decommissioned and is now only accessible by ATV.