Deadly ATV accident changes teen's life - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Deadly ATV accident changes teen's life

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Arkansas is a rural state and for many families ATVs are just a part of life but they aren't toys.


The natural state ranks 5th in the nation for ATV related injuries. Last year, more than 90 Arkansas children were hospitalized following ATV wrecks and for some of those children, they never made it home.


Last fall, Colby Smothers was a star on the Sheridan High School football team.  He had everything going his way until October 22.  That's the day Colby and his two best friends, Zach Godwin and Dylan Neal, made plans to celebrate Colby's birthday with a day of 4-wheeling.  All three boys were on one 4-wheeler when they made a fatal decision.


"We just usually ramped the road. Just try to ramp the road and have fun," said Colby.


As the boys came up and over the highway, they hit a truck.  Zach died. Dylan had severe orthopedic injuries and Colby suffered major injuries as well.


"He had a lacerated spleen, a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder and a very traumatic brain injury," said Colby's mom, Renee James.


A brain injury so severe, his mother was told it would be a miracle if he made it through the night and if he did survive, he may never wake up.


"I was prepared to take care of him whether he laid there and never woke up or whether he woke up and wasn't Colby.  I was prepared for that and I think any mother would be," said Renee.


Thankfully, Colby did wake up, but the star athlete had to relearn everything including how to walk and talk.  He's made remarkable progress.


"Football - that was my best sport. I can't play no more. If I get hit, it's done," said Colby.


Not only will he never play football again and he'll never see his friend Zach again.


"There isn't a day that goes by… I don't think there's an hour of a day that goes by that he doesn't think about Zach," said his mom.


None of the boys in that wreck were wearing helmets. It's something Colby regrets and it is one of the most important rules to follow when riding and ATV.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under the age of 16 should not drive or ride on an ATV at all.  Once a child is 16, they should take an ATV safety course before being allowed to ride.  When it comes to passengers, operation should be restricted to just one person even if the 4-wheeler is built for more. 


Dr. Mary Aitkin, Director of Injury Prevention at Arkansas Children's Hospital, says parents need to follow and enforce the rules.


"These are really not accidents because they're predictable and preventable and with the right, simple interventions, we can really reduce the number of ATV injuries here in Arkansas," said Dr. Aitkin.


Making Arkansans more aware of ATV safety is now a new mission for Colby and his mother.  As he continues to recover, Colby says he wants to make sure no other kids go through what he's had to endure.


"Whatever you do, just don't jump no public highway," said Colby. 


For an ATV safety course near you, you can contact your local cooperative extension service.