07/10/2013

Reduces Risk - and Save Lives

July 15th should be a day of happiness and celebration for my family. It is a day we should be surrounding our son Hunter with friends, family, and a party for his 5th birthday. Balloons, streamers, cake, presents. Instead, our family will continue to struggle with the knowledge that our sweet, kind and gentle son was killed in a tragic and easily preventable accident in April 2012.
 
Hunter’s life ended on a sunny Easter weekend, as we were enjoying a ride on our ATV at our family cottage near Haliburton. One minute we were driving leisurely around a bend on a local road. The next I was waking up on the ground. We had hit an unmarked chain that was hung between two trees. We weren’t driving fast, but the chain was hard to see and there was no time to react. That chain changed us forever. Hunter died in my arms, his neck broken by the impact. He was 3 ½ years old.
 
Over the past year I have been shocked to learn that each year, throughout Ontario, unmarked chains, cables and fences kill and injure numerous people enjoying recreational activities such as riding snowmobiles and ATVs. 
 
Hunter’s senseless death has inspired a call to action from people who want to ensure that common sense is applied to public safety on the local roads and trails in your community. It is fair to question whether stringing potentially lethal barriers across roads or trails should be permitted. Aside from being dangerous, they are quite ineffective from a security perspective. Where they do exist, they should have to be clearly marked.
 
Adding markers or signage to warn of these hazards is simple to do – and common sense dictates that anyone who hangs a hazard across a road or trail has a responsibility to protect others from harm. My son would be alive today if that chain included a sign that said “Private Road.”
 

 
This photo shows the chain that they struck. It is barely visible.




Today the road is safely gated and marked. Hunter's family is looking for municipal leadership to ensure that common sense is used to mark gates, fences and chains responsibly throughout Ontario.

For the sake of all those who have been harmed by these unmarked hazards – and for the sake of all those who will be harmed if we don’t address this risk, we are asking municipal leaders to encourage property owners to properly identify entrances to private road and trails, and to identify potential hazards such as chains, ropes and wires that cross roads or trails.
 
Public awareness campaigns are one option. By-laws are another. The very real risk of preventable drownings has inspired many municipalities to have by-laws that require pool and pond owners to install proper fencing around them. However, we do not know of a single municipality that has taken common sense measures to prevent the erection of potentially lethal barriers across roads and trails. 
 
This is not a task that I ever dreamed I would have to take on as a father. Like most dads I thought my love for my son would be expressed through birthday celebrations and early morning drives to hockey arenas.
 
However, if Hunter’s death can inspire common sense changes that save the lives of others, his loss will not be in vain. People who have heard our story have expressed an outpouring of generous support. More than $100,000 has been donated to local charities in Hunter’s name. However, the real potential for truly having some good come out of this terrible tragedy is to prevent it from happening to another family. As a father who lost his only son, there is no better way to honour our precious boy.  

Please take a moment to consider what you can do to help advance our goal to promote ‘common sense fences’, and help to communicate our belief that simple changes would go a long way toward saving lives.

Jason Goemans

July 11, 2013
AMO Watch File - Guest Column

Disclaimer: The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is unable to provide any warranty regarding the accuracy or completeness of third-party submissions. Distribution of these items does not imply an endorsement of the views, information or services mentioned.