Heidi's Blog

Wednesday, April 9, 2008, 10:53 AM ( 6 views )  - Posted by Heidi
Recently through this website I met a man named Bob Brenends. I consider him a kindred spirit and a valiant warrior in the effort to right this wrong. He has made great strides in warning others of the dangers of the Rhino by sharing what happened to his eighteen year old daughter Danielle. He wrote this eloquent and heart wrenching letter to a journalist who is doing a story about the Rhinos propensity to roll over. I commend you Bob, and pray for your family daily. His letter follows:

I saw your article on the Internet. I lost my daughter, Danielle Rylea Bernard, on 11/26/2006 when the Rhino she was driving for the very first time rolled while making a low-speed turn on level ground and crushed her. She turned a mere 18 years of age just two days earlier and she was in the first quarter at the University of California San Diego where she was majoring in engineering with hopes of attending medical school upon graduation.

Three days earlier, Abbey West, a 13 year old died when the Rhino in which she was a passenger rolled while being driven by a 15 year old. Both Abbey and Dani died at Ocotillo Wells Recreational Vehicle Park southeast of Palm Springs. The same day Abbey West died, a 10 year old girl in Denton, Michigan, died when the Rhino in which she was riding rolled and killed her. This past June, 10 year old J.T. Crow died in Texas when the Rhino in which he was riding rolled and killed him. On 11/23/2007, 12 year old Ashlyn Vargas died when the Rhino in which she was riding in Paso Robles, California, rolled and killed her. Last month, two riders were killed in separate accidents at the same park, Glamis in California, in accidents involving the Rhino. On 02/28/2008, a man almost lost his leg in a Rhino accident at Ocotillo Wells. His wife wrote to me asking what she should do.

I lost my daughter. I will never see her finish college, attend medical school, become a doctor, marry or have children. Instead, I see her ashes in the birdhouse sitting in the memorial we created in our home. We are heartbroken and devastated. We cry every day. We can't 'get over it" like a lost bet. We lost our pride and joy. Our only daughter. Dani's former swim club owner established a website in Dani's honor: www.danibernard.com. Too, JT Crow's mother, Heidi, established a website in her son's honor: www.jtcrow.net. That breaks my heart.

Two months before Dani's accident, Yamaha mailed a warning to Rhino owners; however, the warning merely cautioned against sticking one's arms or legs outside the vehicle during a rollover. The warning did not advise installing doors, which may have saved Dani's life, as well as the others described here. I place notices on many websites, including YouTube, warning of the dangers. Most readers are sympathetic but not all. It won't be until a loved one is killed or injured that people will be motivated to take action -- legislation -- to address this killer of our youth.

I am a broken man, crushed at the loss of my daughter. My wife, Dani's birth mother, barely makes it through each day. Dani's brothers also suffer though in ways that may not manifest themselves until years later. We all suffer.

I appreciate your article and hope that it will draw the attention of Yamaha, who is in a position to re-design the vehicle to make it safer for all.


E. Robert Berends Jr.

Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:33 AM ( 2 views )  - Posted by Heidi
We all walk around covered in these unique patchwork jackets of grief; they are a collection of memories of moments of precious gifts and painful regrets. We arrange them in our own way, cram them together to make them fit, to make them cover our fragile forms. In the beginning I was so consumed with preparing my own jacket that I didn’t look up long enough to appreciate the others. My youngest son Kenny who is 8 has such wonderful memories of his brother. He talks about him with such adoration that I would imagine his jacket to be covered in the memories of playing with his brother. The two of them swimming in the lake with the whitecaps and the big yellow boat, or dressed up like cowboys in their red hats playing catch in the yard. A colorful creation of what he holds precious. Kenny’s jacket is strikingly different from my daughter’s who is 13 now. She is a little darker pushing down the pain of her loss with so much mite that she has become a little Johnny Cash “the man in black” in her coat. I have discovered that its not that Madison's memories are any less beautiful than Kenny’s it just that she keeps them tightly woven on the inside of her dark, thick outer fabric. I’m not sure if this helps her feel like they belong only to her or if she likes them just a little closer to her heart. Either way no matter how we choose to patch it together and sew it up whether it’s a miss match or a colorful creation, whether we show it proudly or hide it, it is our own and we have found a way to be comfortable in the warmth of its significance.

Saturday, April 5, 2008, 10:40 AM ( 3 views )  - Posted by Heidi
I am spending a lot of time now with bloody palms and bruised kneecaps from stumbling around on my earthbound search for comfort. My mind knows, but my heart refuses to accept, the fact that my relief is no longer an earthbound treasure. I manage to crawl through my days somehow momentarily regaining my footing only for the slightest bump in the road to send me sailing back down on my face. My eyes desperately trying to find a sight that goes unseen. My heart screaming out words that go unheard and searching…searching for the comfort of my little boy with his toothy grin and corn colored hair, painfully longing just to hold him and feel, once again, complete.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 02:33 PM ( 4 views )  - Posted by Administrator
Today the wind is blowing through with great force swirling and clacking the trees together knocking off the signs autumn has left behind. On the fence post in front of me the birds sit and sing a tune of “it’s coming! It’s coming!” Like little flowers girls before the bride they warn of spring’s arrival. I cant help but think that each passing day is an accomplishment in itself to face down and conquer, and though I want to rejoice in the new season each moment is a double edged sword…bringing me further from the last day I saw his face and at the same time closer to the next day I will.

Sunday, March 9, 2008, 12:54 PM ( 3 views )  - Posted by Administrator
Everyday the pain grows and manifests itself differently. I have been feeling so numb with it. I have the memories of J.T. swirling in my head at such a rapid rate lately, his smile remains in the forefront and I desperately want to touch his face. It seemed to start when it snowed last week. It hit early in the morning and Madie and Kenny were just waking up. Kenny rushed to get dressed and went outside all bundled up. He was just walking around looking up. I watched him for a while from the front window knowing that J.T. was heavy on his mind and I began to imagine J.T way up above him with pink rosy cheeks from the cold kneeling over a bucket of giant snowflakes sprinkling them down over us like sugar. I know he will never be far from us if we hold tightly to his precious memories but at the same time I know that it will never be enough and we will never be the same.

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