Members of the Calgary ATV Riders Association were out working in the Waiparous Creek area northwest of the city this weekend for two-full days of maintaining trails.
The club is working with Alberta Environment and Parks to help keep wheels out of water. Members worked on several trail re-routes, which will enable the placement of permanent bridge crossings to help maintain the trail system for generations.
But what was on the minds of most volunteers were the two deaths of ATV riders in Alberta over the weekend.
“It made me more cautious this morning. I was a lot more cautious. They waited up for me and I was going a lot slower than they were,” said Raed Hammoud, who was out enjoying the day riding in the area.
“Just thinking about it. The last thing I want is my quad laying on top of my chest and me struggling for breath,” Hammoud said.
At around 1 p.m. Sunday, a father and his 12-year-old son were riding in a side-by-side ATV in the McLean Creek area, when it rolled. The tough terrain made the rescue challenging.
Kananaskis public safety specialists, along with alpine helicopters, were called out to help locate the boy. They were able to get him out, but he died at the scene.
Mounties originally said the father and son were both wearing helmets at the time of the crash, but clarified Monday they were not.
RCMP Sgt. Jeff Campbell said Monday helmets are not required, but are highly recommended on ATVs in Alberta.
Speed and alcohol aren’t believed to be factors in the rollover.
On Friday evening, north of Coleman, Alta., a quad with two riders went out of control and rolled down an embankment. The male driver died and the female passenger had minor injuries. Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the accident, according to RCMP.
On May long weekend, a 37-year-old man from Blackfalds was killed in an ATV rollover northwest of Sundre. Two men were on a side-by-side ATV when it rolled down a hill. Both were wearing safety helmets and seatbelts.
“They are not the typical car. It’s a dune buggy basically. It’s a short wheelbase and not as wide as a car, so it’s really easy to roll. A lot more power than people think they have,” said Tyler Stamler, an experienced rider with side by side ATVs. “They are easy, fun. You don’t have to get all geared up, just throw your helmet on. Take your friend or girlfriend or kid. Kids can drive them with you. It’s really safe if you are just cautious.”
“The seatbelt for the average person would contain you. If you have a small child, I would get a proper harness for him and always wear helmets,” Stamler said. “Anything can happen. A tire can pop and you could roll and you can be doing absolutely nothing wrong.”
Chris Lijdsman said side-by-side ATVs are generally safe vehicles, but it is a good idea to upgrade the restraints. His father was injured recently in a side-by-side rollover.
“They just went to do a U-turn and they ended up rolling it. My dad is a bit of a bigger guy and he hit his head on his brother’s or on the roll cage. Right after he did that, he put in six-point harness seatbelts,” Lijdsman said. “I think it’s how you operate it too. Being in a roll cage and having seatbelts, people feel a lot more safe than on a quad, so they get a little riskier.”
Raed Hammoud said speed can also lead to trouble for ATV users.
“Speed is a big issue. People don’t understand how fast they are going. You come across a turn and the next thing you know, you are on your side and you have a quad on top of your chest,” Hammoud said.
Many riders Global News spoke with said they’ve had close calls either because of speed.
“I think we’re all guilty of it a little bit. You get out with people that have been riding for a while and you want to keep up. You don’t want to keep them waiting but that’s how you get hurt. That’s how I hurt myself last year,” Mohamed Rahemtulla said.
Editor’s note: While the RCMP originally reported the boy who died in the McLean Creek rollover was 14, they clarified Monday he was 12 years old. They also said the father admitted he and his son were not wearing helmets in an interview with police.