Safety specialist says ATV designed to maintain stability

A mother whose young son was killed in an ATV crash sometimes wonders if her son would be alive today had the machine been better safety features.

Blaine Sanford, 6, died in the summer of 2015 after he and his three-year-old brother, Rhett, were thrown from the quad by either braking too hard or turning sharply on their farm near Frontier, Sask.

Marion, the boys’ mom, said her husband had just got off the ATV when Rhett decided to run onto it and drive.

She said Blaine saw Rhett make a go for it, so he jumped on to try and stop him.

“We couldn’t scream loud enough,” Marion recalled, during a telephone interview on Sept. 27. “I wasn’t even out of the car yet, and we’re trying to scream over the quad that’s running and the vehicle is still going.”

Marion said it only took about 20 seconds for the boys to be thrown off.

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“It’s not like they were riding it and fooling around,” she said. “They didn’t even go 10 feet. It happened very quickly.”

Rhett suffered a major neck injury, requiring several months in hospital, but managed to heal to the point where he can live a mostly normal life.

“It was miracle he survived. Adults break that part of their neck and don’t survive,” Marion said. “He’s happy and healthy. There’s really no stopping him.”

To this day she wonders if Blaine would still be out playing with his siblings had the ATV been equipped with more safety mechanisms.

For example, she said she wished the ATV had been built with a seat that detects the weight of a person, where it won’t start or move if the operator is too light. It’s a mechanism that’s built into some garden tractors, she said.

“Why can’t there be more safety mechanisms for a quad?” she asked.

“It would get rid of the little accidents, the accidents we suffered. Needless to say, freak accidents happen and I don’t know if I accept that or not, but it’s something I live with daily.”

Glen Blahey, an agricultural health and safety specialist with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, said ATVs can’t be built like some garden tractors or with lockouts because the seats need to move to maintain stability.

“The bottom line is, and I don’t mean to lay blame, taking the key out of the ATV is probably the most effective way in controlling unauthorized start-up and use of it,” he said.

Marion said she and her husband took as many safety precautions as they could.

They always took the keys out of the ignition when it wasn’t in use, told their kids they weren’t allowed to drive, and went so far as to keep the quad off their land and parked it at their parents’ place.

“I used to always think I was one of those careful parents,” she said. “I think you could be the most careful person in the world but, honestly, tragedy happens and end of story. I never thought this could happen to me.”

She said she and her husband continue to do the best they can.

“Sometimes I don’t know if that’s enough,” she said. “We’re all human, we try so hard. When you lose your heart, it’s hard to go on, but you can’t blame each other.”

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