Mother says teen’s dirt bike accident was preventable

Andrew Robinson
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Wants regulations on use of barricades on roads

Michelle Brown with her son, Stephen Brown, who died Oct. 6 following an accident on a dirt bike near Lethbridge.— Submitted photo

Michelle Brown says her son, Stephen, had a bright future ahead of him — he maintained good grades, was involved with the robotics team, was an athlete and had plans to become an army reservist once he reached the age of 16.

“He was a good boy,” said his mother. “He never got in trouble.”

Stephen, 15, was killed in a dirt bike accident Oct. 6 near Lethbridge, and his mother says the tragedy was preventable. She is determined to make sure others do not have to deal with the pain she is experiencing as the result of her son’s death.

“For this to happen to him is so senseless, and that’s exactly what it is. It should have never happened. … I can’t bring back Steve, but I can look at trying to save somebody else’s child or an adult.”

Brown said she has not been able to find any rules or regulations regarding the installation of barricades on public or private roads without the presence of markings or tags to alert others of a barricade’s presence.

The access road Stephen was riding on led to farmland and a scrap yard.

Brown said a chain stretched over a portion of the dirt road clotheslined him as he was riding the dirt bike. Stephen’s neck hit the chain, killing him instantly. She said he was wearing protective gear, including a bike helmet.

“My son was going down there on that road, which he then would have met up with the railway bed and … met with his friend. … It was a dark chain, and he didn’t see it.”

According to Brown, her son’s death is not an isolated incident, as barricades on dirt roads have injured or killed others, both young people and adults. She said in some cases such barricades should not even exist, while other times they lack markers to indicate their presence.

The chain on the dirt access road near Lethbridge has since been removed, along with the posts that supported it. While noting it leads to private land, Brown said the road itself is not privately owned.

“Why would a chain have even been across this access road?” she said. “Even if it was private property, there should be proper rules and regulations in place where it has to be a proper fence or gate put up there, and if they’re going to put up barricades like rope or chain, it has to be visibly marked so it can be seen.”

In the aftermath of Stephen’s death, Brown’s goal is to establish a law in her son’s honour called Stephen’s Law.

“I will work on that until something happens in this province so people are protected,” she said.

“Something has to happen now. My son has lost his life. He’s not going to get a chance to live a life, and he has a mother and father and family and friends who are just devastated. I don’t even know how I am going to face the rest of my life without him. He was my world.”

Brown has been in touch with the provincial government, and has been told it is investigating the matter.

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Geographic location: Lethbridge

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Recent comments

    October 23, 2012 - 00:03

    These truly are tragic circumstances. For the parents of Stephen Brown, their lives are forever altered because of the loss of thier son. For the owners of the property, the death of their great -nephew (especially under these circumstances) is devastating. I wish Michelle every success in her quest for new legislation - Stephen's Law. In this instance, it was a 15 year old boy on a dirt bike but it could easily have happened to anyone of any age. There must be new legislation regarding road barricades. In tragic circumstances, we like to assign blame. What we must focus on is - What can we do to help prevent further tragedies of this nature?

  • A parent
    October 17, 2012 - 22:53

    I am the mother of a 13 year old boy,my son has me crucified for a dirt bike,a ski doo,ATV you name it he wants it.He is a normal 13 year old boy,but I will stand my ground he is not of age to have any of these fun machines,I will not be charged for giving into a minor just like I would not buy him alcohol or cigarettes,my son is much bigger then this boy standing at 6'2" so a chain or rope would have maybe only come to his chest.I can,t imagine losing my only child as this woman did the pain she must be going though.There is a responsibility on the property ower as this child could have easily riding a bicycle,scooter or just even running to catch up with buddies.And on the other hand no matter how long a child is riding a recreational vehicles there are size and age restrictions and that is up to us as parents to enforce that.As for making comments yes some are out of line but this is why these stories are printed to get feed back.

  • Foxisland
    October 17, 2012 - 20:00

    It is not OK to blame the parents for giving him death traps, but it is ok to blame the landowner for trying to prevent trespassers on his land. Scripture says "time and chance happens to all men" tragedies happens get over it and stop blaming everyone else.

  • Newfoundlander with her head on straight.
    October 17, 2012 - 15:05

    What if Steven was 16? 22? 35? 56? Regardless of him being under age or not- the chain was still there with no warning. This could have happened to any one of any age, and just because this boy was not of age does not mean that it won't happen to someone who is 16 years of age, or older. To all you "He was under aged, it's the parents fault"ers; There are many young boys and girls who ride ATV's and Dirt Bikes under the age of 16. I am a rural area similar to Lethbridge, and I can easily say that most get their first motorized bike at the age 13. And I'm everyone can agree with me when I say that almost every other little town across the province is no t different. If it's illegal, why are so many of us buying these bikes for our children? Easy; because this law isn't enforced heavy enough. If you're not going to be punished, people don't have a reason to follow the law, simple as that. What would a cop do if a 15 year old was on their bike? Easy, give them a warning and go on. Don't try to cause drama and direct the issues at the parents for allowing their children to operate motor vehicles; Because chances are; your neighbor, sister, nephew, best friend, co-workers are allowing their children to also operate these bikes. Don't go around voicing your opinion about under aged bike operators unless you are going to pick up the phone and report it to the police. If you are willing to do that, power to you. If not, try not to forget what this movement is really about; the safety of the people in our province. Neighbors know that the kids next door have bikes, teachers see them ride them to school, they post pictures on facebook for the whole community to see. Everyone knows. What I'm trying to say here is; if you feel so strongly about the fact that Steven was 15 years old, I think instead of coming on here and slandering his parents about it- maybe you should pick up the phone, call the RCMP, and let them know about the under-aged youth in your community on bikes. You are all right in the matter than young people wouldn't get killed in accidents if everyone followed the law; and the only way for the law to be followed is if everyone who feels strongly about this matter pitched in and started reporting. If you do that, thank you for trying to keep our youth safe. But please, remember the hazard that this article is trying to prevent. This isn't the place to rant about underaged motor vehicle operations, this is where we have to bond together to keep the off roading trails of Newfoundland and Labrador safe for ALL AGES and ALL OUR CITIZENS! Like I said, just because Steven was 15 doesn't mean that the matter should be looked over by his fellow Newfoundlanders. Don't we want all the nooks and crannys of Newfoundland to be safe for our friends and family? Other people are also bringing up the fact that he was trespassing; yes, it was on someone else's property. The person who owned the property obviously wanted to keep people from entering this area (hence the reason the road was blocked off with a chain). Surely, the land owner didn't mean to set out a 'death trap'(lack of a better word), because no person in a normal sense of mind would put of a trap to kill somebody. It was a harmless motive to simply block off property, taking someone life was surly not in this person's books. And I feel bad for the person who put the chain up; this is something s/he will have to live with for the rest of his/her life, I'm sure that if he could go back in time and put a proper fencing up, he would. S/he can not be the person to be blamed for every unmarked chain across Newfoundland. Mistakes happen; and some mistakes have bigger consequences than others. We have to learn from these mistakes; keep and mind that this could happen to anyone of ANY age; and we have to make changes so that it won't happen again. I usually don't comment on things like this. But it was just so frustrating to see that people are blaming Steven and his Parents for "asking for it" and letting him drive underage. What makes me upset it the fact that it could have been my father, or my boyfriend, or my brother, or even me. Unmarked chains and ropes going across roads in Newfoundland are tragedies waiting to happen. Luckily, it's a issue that could be easily fixed; if you are reading this and you know of a unmarked rope/chain in your area, go and try ribbon and signs to it right now. We have to work together to ensure that our fellow Newfoundlanders are going to be safe; no matter the age or what situation, there is no excuse for such hazards.

  • really ??
    October 17, 2012 - 12:46

    the headline says it all. "Mother says teens dirt bike accident was preventable" . Which is true. She wants a new law dictating the private land owners to provide proper signage for "gates" (ropes/chains etc) . However it fundementaly can be turned around and say there is already a law in place that could have saved this boys life. The law states children under 16 cannot use these machines unsupervised. I agree proper signage is important however it is time to start enforcing the laws in place now. On a daily basis I see kids speedign down roads and farm roads in Goulds and I know they are underage. They race the cars on the goulds bypass by speeding down the farm road that runs parallel. Enforce current rules then try to bring in other rules.

  • Don't make comments that are pointless
    October 17, 2012 - 10:54

    Underage or not - not the priciple here. What difference would it make? He still would of died - no matter what age. Keep to the story at heart and don't go off track. I am assuming you do not have kids of your own.

  • Devastation
    October 17, 2012 - 10:50

    Time for our province's leaders to wake up and do something. A 15-year old boy has lost his life for God's sake and many other people have been injured over the years. I bet if it was one of own, it would be a different story and action would be taken right away. Another repeat of Burton Winters - nothing will be done. Time to get your act together government officials. What are you waiting for?

  • Terrible
    October 17, 2012 - 09:49

    When will Newfoundlanders smarten up!? This is not the boys fault. Hundreds of rural boys ride dirtbikes, quads, and anything else with a motor everyday. Its part of live, and has been for years since i was a boy. How can someone blame a boy for driving to fast or neglecting to see a death trap? Rural boys and girls can handle a machine better then most adults driving around. Challenge me if i am wrong please. I blame this on the older Newfoundland generation. We all know how they love to stop people trespassing on"their land", if they own it or not is a different topic. My condolences are with the family and i hope and pray something is done about barriers on rural roads, private or public. When someone can be charged when setting a death trap on a road for stupidity, it well be a good day!

  • Robert Miller
    October 17, 2012 - 09:28

    My father was the only oral and maxillofacial surgeon in the province for two decades. His career lasted over four decades and he responded to countless emergencies. He constantly reminded me of the dangers chains and wire fences present to snowmobiles based on the severe injuries he encountered. This certainly applies to all terrain vehicles. Unfortunately barricades are all too common in Newfoundland and Labrador--as are the injuries my father witnessed. These barriers are often well hidden and rarely include signage. Many many times these obstacles are used to restrict legal access to public lands. This is not just an issue of private property and, therefore, an operator cannot reasonably predict their locations. There may not be a law stating that barricades and fencing must be clearly identified however their is an obligation. Failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise by clearly marking an intentional obstacle is negligence. The Brown family has suffered a terrible tragedy and the province has lost a wonderful young man. The public must recognize that this was preventable, those creating these hazards are accountable, and see that unnecessary barriers are removed.

  • Fred & Dean - Port Union
    October 17, 2012 - 09:25

    You are in our thoughts constantly. We are so proud of your courage & determination under such difficult circumstances. Continue doing what you are doing Michelle. Stephen would expect nothing less from his beloved mom. Wish we could take your pain and heartache away.

  • Wanda
    October 17, 2012 - 09:22

    Deepest heartfelt sympathy to the family on the tragic loss of their teenage son, Stephen. This family is in the depths of shock and mourning right now, so I really don't think it's an appropriate time to be giving them criticism.

  • paul
    October 17, 2012 - 09:00

    very sad indeed,but if these chaines or ropes are to be put up anywhere maybe there should be a warning sign 100 ft or so to alert drivers that they poceed with caution

  • Concerned Mom
    October 17, 2012 - 08:13

    What is the age limit for riding such bikes, I am the Mother of a 10 year old who has a dirt bike-while he has all the protective gear, it still concerns me when I hear of him riding this at his Dads cabin! Deepest sympathy to this Family.

  • Peggy
    October 17, 2012 - 07:56

    Michelle, My mind was so focused on your tragic loss that I wasn't concentrating on my spelling. I am so sorry that not only did I spell your name incorrectly, but also Stephen's.

  • DirtBikeEh
    October 17, 2012 - 07:54

    With all due respect to the family, I understand your pain and suffering! But did the son speed down over this dirt road, like so many other boys that drive these bikes! Like many other boys on these bikes, out of sight out of mind! I fear that this is becoming a trend in society these days! Don't blame it on the property owner entirely, he may have made a mistake and could have flagged the chain, but speeding on these bikes can be a detrimental factor in these days! Think about it!

    • Violets
      October 17, 2012 - 10:30

      Even if those are your opinions, have some common decency and keep them to yourself. Let's help the are an idiot.

    • parent of a young girl.
      October 18, 2012 - 08:44

      my heart goes out to everyone involved first of all i drive by that road almost every day i have seen the chain across the road it isn't to far in from the highway.the child was on a bike to me was way to big for his age and size a 4 stroke is a fast bike maybe if he was going slower he would have seen it it was not like he was never in that area before .it is family property my heart goe's out to both the parent's and the person who put the chain out it was a awfully accident .my child has a quad and ski doo ,i know the risk's of giving thing's like that to her what are you going to do blame it on someone else if something happen's i am also responsable for any harm that come's to my child it's not just the other person. it could have been a tree that he hit who would have been at fault then. just saying .

  • Bob Hunt
    October 17, 2012 - 07:40

    An unmarked chain across a road is a trap.The person who put it there knew this.This is not the first time that this has happened in this province. The barrier is supposed to be visible. Other accidents of this type include snowmobiles,motorcycles and automobiles...including police automobiles.

  • Whaddaya At ?
    October 17, 2012 - 07:27

    The chain and fenceposts have been removed eh ?. That's nice. Someone finally smartened up after a tragedy waiting to happen, killed a 16 year old boy. It's a sad state of affairs when we have to bring in legislation to deal with stupidity and indifference. There's no way anybody with a grain of sense can't see the dangers posed by putting an unmarked chain across a dirt road. They know the dangers, they simply don't give a s - - t.

  • Peggy
    October 17, 2012 - 07:14

    Michele, my heart is breaking for you and other family members over the tragic loss of your young son. Common sense would have prevented this terrible unnecessary accident if bright markers or ribbons had been tied unto the chain. In our cabin area I've noticed the same inconsideration for other's safety. Mere words are insufficient right now to ease your pain and heartache. God bless you and I pray you will feel His presence and comfort. Steven is now a Heavenly angel looking over you. Sending you hugs and love and utmost compassion and condolences.

  • terrible accident
    October 17, 2012 - 06:44

    This is a terrible tragedy from anyones perspective. However what no one has addressed pubicly in this matter is that the young man was underage to operate such a machine. In interviews on other news outlets last night it was stated he had skidoo, atv, dirtbike. but he was 15...underage to operate any of these machines. Same as another young girl interviewed on a local news station last night clotheslined by a rope. Underage to operate. While I understand the concern over the ropes/chains/blockades across backroads on private property My biggest pet peeve is still ultimatly these kids are underage! You certainly wouldn't toss the car keys to a kid why would you give them unsupervised access to machines such as this. Again I am sorry for this familys loss. but this is something that should be addressed. I see kids on a daily basis on farm roads unsupervised and this is going to continue to happen more and more until they start to crak down on underage operators.