RUSH SPRINGS, Okla. – When the temperatures go up, the kids go outside and many of them love to get on 4-wheelers and ATVs.
However, even though they are fun, they can be the source of grave danger if you don’t wear a helmet.
According to Safe Kids Oklahoma, between 2015 and 2016, there were 39 ATV-related fatalities in Oklahoma.
Statistics provided by Safe Kids show wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of fatality by 49%.
Now, one local family is warning others after a boy’s life was forever changed by one of those accidents.
“It was really traumatic, I mean my boy was dead in my arms. It was terrible,” said James Richardson.
For Richardson, it was a day he’ll never forget.
Last spring, he was riding ATVs with his two sons near their hometown of Rush Springs when the unthinkable happened.
His oldest son, Zeth, who had been riding for years, went over a plateau and hit his head on the handlebars when he came down.
The 11-year-old, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, flipped off the ATV.
Before Richardson knew it, his son was being loaded into a medical helicopter.
“They came out and told me if I wanted to say something to Zeth, I better say something to him,” Richardson said. “It was awful.”
His grandparents, Mickey and Donna Richardson, remember when they got the call.
“Our hearts just dropped,” Donna said. “We were just speechless really.”
More than a year later, Zeth can’t walk or talk.
He can barely open his eyes due to an injury to a nerve in his face.
His doctor at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital says he’s come a long way, but he likely will never be able to talk or take more than a few steps independently.
Something doctors say could have been prevented had he been wearing a helmet.
However, getting him to keep one on was always a struggle for Zeth’s family.
“He would leave with helmets on, but wouldn’t come back,” Donna recalled. “We don`t know where they`re at.”
Now they’re hoping Zeth’s story will serve as a warning to other kids and their parents.
“You know, the kids don`t want to wear them, but they need to wear them,” said Mickey. “That`s the main thing. Just look at him. Little kids ought to be looking at that. They need to look at that.”
A lesson Zeth has learned as his life is forever changed.
“I`m so proud of him,” James said. “He`s not a quitter, I know that.”
Zeth celebrated his 12th birthday at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital.
More than a year after his accident, he still does not have a discharge date.