Child Killed in ATV Crash

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SOUTH MANHEIM TOWNSHIP-- ATV tracks can be seen all over a field near Schuylkill Haven.  Neighbors say this is a popular area for all-terrain vehicles.  Sadly, a father-daughter ATV ride ended in tragedy Saturday night, after 8-year-old Lynsey Ernst was killed.

“Very sad.  It seems like a real waste,” Cliff Steffy said.

According to state police, Paul Ernst, 38, was driving the ATV in a field off of Berne Drive, near Schuylkill Haven Saturday.  The ATV hit a telephone pole that was lying across a railroad bed.  The ATV flipped over.  Lynsey was riding on the back of the vehicle, and was killed.

"It's an honest mistake if something happens or a freak accident.  There's nobody to blame.  It happens.  Sometimes it's a tragic accident,” Lisa Webber said.

State police say neither father nor daughter were wearing helmets.

"I'm all for letting adults make a decision on whether or not to wear a helmet, but if there is a minor involved, you sure think there should be a law concerning it.  If there was a law, somebody is liable for that,” Steffy said.

Pennsylvania's ATV law says it is illegal to operate an ATV without a helmet.  Lisa Webber of Orwigsburg has an ATV and a dirt bike.  She makes her children wear helmets when using them, but understands as a parent, sometimes kids don't always wear them.

“There are those times when you're having fun and you just want to take it for a ride, we're only going to be a little bit.  Anything can happen,” Webber said.

Paul Ernst is listed in stable condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown.  State police are investigating the death, and did not say whether charges would be filed.


  • El Ma

    I am sorry for the loss that this family has experienced. No parent should ever have to bury their child.

    Having typed that, I will say without one shred of shame that ATV’s are NOT meant for children. They are difficult to manage and the fact that the parent made the decision to not wear a helmet, nor place on on his daughter, makes this a forever tragedy for him, specifically.

    I live in an area of NEPA that sees people frequently using ATV’s when they come up from the cities to drown out the solitude of Nature that they claim to be so enamored of while gunning their vehicles’ engines on State roads, private property, and terrain with which they are unfamiliar. Nearly every one of these people are not wearing helmets and nearly every one of them operates these machines with indescribable recklessness and indifference to their own safety, as well as that of others. During the Memorial Day Weekend, I saw no less that 4 ATV’s stuffed with weekenders who were dangling out of the vehicle, holding onto the roll bars, and standing up holding their beer cans, all without helmets. Not one of these people were wearing helmets.

    This father ran into a telephone pole at a sufficient speed to flip his machine over? How fast was he traveling? Was alcohol involved? I realize that these questions may not seem very sympathetic, and that’s not the point. Facts are separate from feelings and emotions. The fact is that this child died in a 100% preventable accident. The parent made the decision to place that child on the vehicle, drive at an apparently reckless speed, and all without helmets.

    I am so sorry that this little girl won’t experience all of the wonders of Life. I am also sorry that the parents now have to live with their reckless decisions. I hope that they can find the ability to forgive themselves, one day, and (perhaps) to advocate that ATV’s are not toys. They are powerful vehicles that require skill and common sense to safely operate. What a dreadful tragedy.

  • I'm confused

    From the SUMMARY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLE LAW: HELMETS It is illegal to operate an ATV without a securely fastened helmet on the head of the operator. Notice it says – operator, not passenger(s). Also, on private property helmets are not required unless specified by the property owner. On state land a helmet must be worn and you must have insurance. BUT – I can climb on my 900 pound Ultra Road King Sportster Grand Hog Fat Man Easy Glide Custom Wing and barrel down the interstate at 70 MPH without a helmet. Makes sense to me.

  • Lance

    If its illegal not wearing a helmet than he should be held responsible. It is a trajedy that his daughter died. And he will have to live with that. But he should face child endangerment. Maybe this will stop other parents from doing the same thing.

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