Heidi's Blog

Tuesday, August 4, 2009, 06:12 PM ( 52 views )  - Posted by Heidi
Aug. 4, 2009
Trendy Off-Road Vehicle Poses Deadly Risk CBS News Investigation Reveals
More Than 400 Death and Injury Lawsuits Related to Yamaha Rhino
(CBS) It's like a muscle-car for the backcountry - the hottest trend in
off-road vehicles. But a four-month CBS News investigation has found
evidence that the popular Yamaha Rhino doesn't need to be busting over
tough terrain to be dangerous.

"The Yamaha Rhino started to rock and it tipped over on my left side,
crushing my wrist," said Justin Miller, who lost his left hand after a
Rhino accident in May of 2008.

Miller says he wasn't jumping sand dunes or careening around corners -
just driving less than 15 miles per hour on flat ground when his
1,100-pound Rhino rolled over.

Miller told CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian
that he was wearing a helmet, belted in and that he didn't break any

Yamaha disputes that, citing a police report saying Justin was driving
20 miles an hour down a hill and hit a rock.

The Rhino has been a runaway hit in the off-road market since its
introduction in 2003; more than 150,000 have been sold to date. It turns
out no one tracks exactly how many people have been injured while riding
in these recreational vehicles.

But CBS News has learned of at least 440 Rhino-related death and injury
lawsuits across the U.S. - including Justin Miller's.

Miller said that if the rider were leaning left on a Rhino, "it would
tip over."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission cites hundreds of reported
injuries - including broken bones crushed legs, arms and heads - often
on level ground at relatively low speeds. The commission also cites a
disturbing number of deaths.

"The public needs to be aware that already 59 people have been killed in
these vehicles," said Inez Tenenbaum, head of the CPSC. "It's very high
risk. This vehicle has a high center of gravity and it will turn over."

Last March the CPSC and Yamaha agreed to a voluntary "free repair"
program. Yamaha temporarily suspended sales of all Rhino models and
agreed to make a series of repairs to improve handling and reduce
injuries. The CPSC told people to follow Yamaha safety guidelines,
finding many cases of unbelted riders.

Still the new head of the CSPC says her agency's investigation is far
from over.

"We'll continue to look at this, and if we have to take stronger
measures, we will," Tenenbaum said.

Yamaha Motor Corp, which did $16 billion in sales overall last year,
fiercely defends the Rhino. Arguing virtually all accidents are caused
by operator error - ignoring safety warnings, driving too fast on
pavement, or failing to wear seat belts or helmets.

"I think there's just a lot of people out there who give people like me
- my family - bad names and give these machines bad names," said Rhino
rider Darren Thau. "There's a lot of stupid people."

Yet one video shows a Yamaha dealer employee moving a Rhino from one
part of a dealership to another when it tips over.

Turns out, the potential for rollovers was well known to Yamaha
executives. According to documents obtained by CBS News, just 15 months
before its introduction at a testing ground in Kentucky, two riders
rolled over in a prototype for the Rhino. The driver: a Yamaha president
at the time. His passenger: the vice president in charge of Rhino
Development who sustained a foot injury.

Today there are no safety standards for these so-called "side-by-side"
vehicles. Right now, the industry is drafting a set of voluntary ones.
Tenenbaum says that may not be enough.

"With the number of deaths that have already occurred, we're even
thinking we should go to mandatory standards," Tenenbaum said.

Yamaha wouldn't provide someone to speak with us on camera so we went to
their headquarters in Southern California. But despite repeated requests
company lawyers ultimately decided not to let anyone speak on camera.

Yamaha did provide several off-camera interviews and answers to written
questions. In statements to CBS News, Yamaha said: The Rhino "...is a
safe, reliable and versatile vehicle...." and "...has won virtually
every 'first-in-class award' and top safety ratings...and that the
vehicles have been tested for thousands of hours and perform with a high
level of customer satisfaction."

Certainly not for this customer Justin Miller.

"A lot of kids before me had died," he said. "And if we had known that,
we would have never bought this product."

Now, after seven surgeries, 17-year-old Justin Miller is on his way to
college to study pre-med, hoping one day to become a doctor,
specializing in prosthetics.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 11:43 PM ( 56 views )  - Posted by Heidi
I have learned that two years without my Son brings no more peace than it does pain. In my constant battle, with one or the other perpetually crashing into me, I have discovered a new wave of sorts. This one doesnít slam into me, and the others in grief around me, but it consumes us. I canít put my finger on exactly what it is, but my Dad told me a story on the night of the 22nd that can sum it up. It was around 8:30 when he called and the sadness had pinched and poked at me all day. I was just settling in to join it and begin torturing myself by spreading all the pictures out on the floor to study J.T.ís eyes trying to discover some emotion I hadnít seen before when the phone rang. It was Dad asking me how I was doing and I responded ďÖoh Iím alright, what are you up to?Ē His voice suddenly changed from that calm mild mannered Dad voice and took on a more mischievous tone when he said ďGuess what I did today!?Ē Now I have to admit this intrigued me because Dad is by no means a boring guy, but he is smart, even tempered, and dependable. So for my 63 year old Dad to tell me that he rode his bike behind the park to a place where there are motor cross trails made me laugh. He said he rode over the fifteen foot drops at full speed ahead, then he told me that one hill got the best of him and that he fell off and his back now looks like hamburger, but he just got back up shouted J.T.ís signature ďwoo-hoo!Ē and kept going. I didnít have to ask why he did it, I knew it was for J.T. I knew J.T. was the only grandchild Dad has that could convince him to ride those trails, and I knew it was the very spirit of J.T. that had slammed into Dad and instead of knocking him down, consumed him. Dad ended the conversation by telling me he was fine, he knew I would get a kick out of it and it actually made him feel great. Perhaps a couple of hours spent with the adventurous spirit of J.T. consuming us we would all feel a little better and I found myself contented to discover it has the ability to do so.

Monday, June 15, 2009, 03:33 PM ( 53 views )  - Posted by Heidi
At one it was all smiles and four teeth to skin a pea. He didnít speak to us at all only pointed and held his bottle with his feet. Then came two and it was dogs and trucks, everything was a dog or a truck, the fireplace, momís cat, the garden hose anything could fit into one of those two categories. When he turned four Madie went to school, he cried and laid his head in his hands and spent the rest of the day trying to make Kenny play with him, asking when Sissy would be home. At six he started school, the memories all documented in precious photographs, the pumpkin farm and the fire house. He found his love for friends, learning and paper and pens. He wrote his name on everything and always had a list, I love to read them now hidden in the third drawer on the left side of his dresser. At eight it was camping, peeing outside and playing cowboys with Kenny. He was all boy dressed in work boots and a black t-shirt so he looked like Granddad. At nine he loved football and his bike, it is still parked there by the shed gathering dust, waiting. The surf board hangs on the wall in the barn, the paper and pens sit up in his room with the bird house he built and his work boots at the foot of his bed. Everything waiting for more memories as I am. This is what I have for sure, the memories of what was but itís what I donít that have haunts me. What might have been? What would ten have brought or twelve or sixteen? The longing to know feels like torture to my psyche as my imagination works overtime trying to finish a puzzle with so many beautiful pieces missing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009, 11:22 AM ( 39 views )  - Posted by Heidi
This is the time of year when I feel lost in a deep and heavy sadness. I keep reliving a time only two short years ago. It was the end of the school year and the kids were excited. We spent our time preparing for end of the year activities, Field Day, Awards Ceremonies, the last day of school, and making our summer plans. Life was effortless, the days filled with swimming of our dock and eating sandwiches outside, all my little ducks in a row, one, twoÖthree. Now I live a little lost in what was, spending my time whishing I was back in those simple moments. We still try to enjoy the dock but the memories are heavy and the lake feels like swimming in wet concrete now, the picnics have grown quiet because we donít know what plans to make and J.T. canít come along. It seems sad I know, to hear that the weight of grief still sucks some of the joy out of the present but without those blue eyes and that yellow surf board, that front flip before the splash, life just isnít the same. My joy is in the past and my mind keeps rewinding to it just to try and borrow a smile.

Thursday, May 14, 2009, 10:25 AM ( 41 views )  - Posted by Heidi
Here is a subject that I havenít yet touched upon but I seem to struggle with, especially as of late. Words. Now this blog isnít referring to the people that walk up and say ďI know how you feel, my dog Duke died last summerÖĒ Letís just assume those people are missing a chromosome, chalk that up to ignorance, and move on. Iím talking about the people who hold special places in our lives, those people we love and value, and normally say things that we would try and accept. I knew it was inevitable to hear this one someday, but even that knowledge didnít keep me from the sweaty palms and rapid heart rate I received upon its delivery ďÖItís been two almost years, Itís time to move on.Ē Ouch, there it is like a grenade with the pin pulled moments before it explodes my heart. At first my mind went to logic, thinking thatís ridiculous, the death of a child is not something a mother just gets over. We all struggle through our existence trying to live a life that matters, and believe me, J.T.ís life mattered to me and it always will. Angry feelings followed that up of course, but I have become an expert at anger so that was no surprise, then days later, after the statement had time to marinate in my mind, the guilt set in. You see there is no book entitled Grieving For Dummies, therefore I donít know if what I am feeling is right, and for someone to suggest that it isnít makes me feel guilty, as though holding on is wrong, even though I know itís impossible not to.

That first statement I thought I might hear, this next one didnít even make my radar. ď Heidi, you have to learn to separate THIS from other situations.Ē THIS? What is THIS exactly? To me this is my son, my child, and just like my ďlivingĒ children J.T. is a part of every situation and every decision I make. To have to separate what happened to him from every other aspect of my life would be cruel and unusual punishment. It has become almost as certain as blinking to openly cry when I am reminded of him or interject him into a situation where he is obviously and painfully missing. As the words began to bore holes in my brain, images of me in a black cloak alone in my room secretly grieving like a leper emerged, then the questions, Is that what I should do? Spare those around me from the pain I feel? Keep it to myself? That doesnít honor J.T. and as much as I know how the people that love me donít want me to hurt, I do. Is it better for me to conceal that to protect them, or for them to accept my pain to comfort me? I donít want to cover my scars with a cloak, I am proud of them, they represent my son. Are these the wrong things to say? Perhaps, but inside every situation is a lesson and this week during my unwelcome ďgrief interventionĒ I have learned that life is a fine mingling of some holding on and others letting go.

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