Family hopes story of son's death can help to reduce spike in ATV crashes

AUGUSTA, Kan. Through the long holiday weekend, a safety reminder comes with a spike in ATV accidents.

In the most recent case Saturday, a 7-year-old boy died from his injuries in an ATV crash in Hamilton County.

A Peabody teen is fighting to recover from a traumatic head injury he suffered in a June 27 crash.

In addressing the safety concern associated with ATVs and young riders, Eyewitness News Monday spoke with an Augusta family who knows all too well the dangers that can come with driving ATVs.

Dalton Palmer was 13 years old when he died from his injuries in a 2014 ATV crash. His family says they want others to know that his death was preventable.

The upstairs of the Palmer's Augusta home is filled with reminders of Dalton. Among his things the family's kept on shelves are his batting gloves and the shoes he was wearing the day that he died.

Dalton was riding a Polaris Ranger when he lost control of the small vehicle and rolled several times. His family believes the impact of his head hitting the ATV instantly killed him. While Dalton was wearing a seat belt, his mother, Jenny Palmer, says they could've done more to keep him safe.

"We've had about five years now to reflect on this and it's definitely 100 percent a situation where this could have been prevented," Jenny Palmer says. "If Dalton would've had a helmet on, that could've decreased the likelihood he would've passed away from this."

Jenny Palmer says she feels it came down to parental error. Dalton was only 13 and the age requirement for the ATV he rode was 16.

"We had seen Dalton driving too fast earlier that day," she says. "I had asked him to slow down. His father had asked him to slow down. And yet, that will be something that we will live (with) forever, wishing we had stopped him and not let him continue to drive. Because those (lapses) in our judgement are basically why he's gone."

Those who sell ATVs also say age is often a factor in accidents.

"The thing that I stress the most is just the size of the kids," says Kerry Meyer, owner of Advanced Motorsports in Wichita. "We get too small of kids on too big of machines and they just can't handle them, and that's where I think we see the majority of our accidents."

Jenny Palmer says it's important for parents not to assume their children are being careful if they're doing something potentially risky like riding an ATV.

"Dalton was a 13-year-old boy that had a lot of spunk and was not afraid to take risks," she says. "Know your child's personality. I should've foreseen that, my husband should've, but we allowed it regardless, because we put that trust in him."

Dalton's family hopes their loss can prevent another child from getting hurt. That's why even though it's difficult to talk about Dalton's death, the Palmers say it's important for them to share his story.

"He should be graduating high school right now. He should be signing with baseball teams, going to college. We should be preparing for all of this, but instead, we just spent his 18th birthday releasing balloons at a cemetery," Jenny Palmer says.