LINN COUNTY, Iowa -- Two young boys died Monday after an ATV crash in rural Linn County.
The boys were identified late Monday as 9-year-old twin brothers Colton Wayne Novak and Clayton Alan Novak.
The fatal crash is the second in the past three days involving young boys on utility vehicles. Four teenagers died in Dubuque County on Saturday when their John Deere Gator utility vehicle was hit by a truck.
The Linn County Sheriff's Office responded to Monday's crash at 1146 Highway 30 at 12:15 p.m., according to Sheriff Brian Gardner. Relatives found the victims — described as preteens — in a creek in a pasture area behind the residence. The ATV was lying in the creek.
When Gardner arrived on the scene, a Mount Vernon police officer and a Mount Vernon firefighter were performing CPR on the boys, who later were taken via helicopter to St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, he said. The boys, who authorities have not identified, died at the hospital.
Gardner didn't know if the boys had been thrown from the ATV or pinned underneath. The creek banks were steep, Gardner said.
An accident investigator was at the scene, but Gardner said he has not had a chance to speak with the investigator and does not know many details of the crash, including what the boys were doing on the ATV, where they were going, how the crash occurred or even if both boys were on the ATV when it crashed.
“There were two motorbikes on the scene also, but I don't know if they were part of this,” he said.
While there are laws governing the use of ATVs on public roadways, Gardner said those generally don't cover use on private property.
“You're on private property, I would suppose you can do whatever you want to,” he said.
Unfortunately, ATV injuries among adolescents are far too common, said University of Iowa Dr. Charles Jennissen, a clinical associate professor in emergency medicine.
Jennissen has done multiple studies on ATV crashes and one recently published in the Annals of Family Medicine found that of 3,600 11- to 16-year-old Iowans polled, 77 percent had operated an ATV and, of those, 57 percent had been in a crash.
“More kids die in ATV accidents ... than bicycle accidents,” Jennissen said. “It's just such a tragedy for families.”
While Jennissen did not know the circumstances of the boys' deaths, he said multiple factors could have contributed, including whether or not they were wearing helmets, if more than one person was on the ATV and the size of the vehicle. Jennissen noted that ATVs are built for adults and designed to be ridden by one person. They have a higher center of gravity, which makes them easier to tip over.
“The risk for serious injury is much, much higher,” Jennissen said.