2 Teens, Father Die After ATV Falls 100 Feet Down Tennessee Embankment: It's a 'Tragic Loss'
A child was also injured in the incident and taken to a local hospital for treatment
A father and two teens were killed on Sunday after the all-terrain vehicle they were riding in fell over a steep embankment through thick brush and trees, PEOPLE confirms.
Ronnie Akins, 47, and his 19-year-old son Dillon Akins were riding in the ATV with Dillon’s friend Jonathan Laws, 19, and a 13-year-old boy around 1 p.m. on Sunday when the vehicle fell down the embankment, the Associated Press and Asheville Citizen-Times report. A spokesperson for the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the news to PEOPLE.
Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins told WLAF that the group crashed and the ATV plummeted into a creek, adding that it took authorities at least an hour to rescue them.
The group, from Weaverville, North Carolina, was visiting Windrock Park, a privately owned off-roading adventure park that sits on 73,000 acres in Oliver Springs. In the wake of the accident, the North Buncombe High School men’s basketball team remembered Dillon and Laws in a Facebook post.
“The Blackhawks suffered a tragic loss tonight,” the post reads. “Our hearts are saddened as we mourn the loss of Johnny, Dillon and Dillon’s father. Johnny and Dillon were two fine young men. Our hearts and prayers are with their families. Please remember the families in prayer.”
Although authorities have not made the 13-year-old boy’s identity public, a GoFundMe set up for the Akins family described the boy as Dillon’s cousin. According to the page, he “suffered several broke bones and other non-life threatening injuries.”
A North Buncombe teacher told the Citizen-Times that the teen underwent surgery on Monday and is awake.
Authorities have long warned of the dangers ATVs pose, even as they provide a fun, adventurous time for riders. Inez Tenenbaum, former chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, called ATVs one of the “deadliest” products that the commission oversees.
“Every year 700 people die and 136,000 go to the emergency room because of ATV related injuries,” Tenenbaum told NBC News in 2012.
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Over a 32-year period (1982-2013), 524 people died on ATVs in Tennessee, according to the CPSC.
With that, the CPSC has released several “rules of the trail” to combat the high number of ATV-related deaths and injuries. Tips include not riding with a passenger, as an overloaded ATV could make it more difficult for the driver to control the vehicle.
Officials strongly recommend wearing protective gear and taking a hands-on ATV safety training course.