FLINT, Mich. — The father of the 7-year-old boy who died Monday after a dirt bike crash in Fenton Township said his son was an experienced rider, and he isn’t sure what caused the boy’s sudden crash.
Tyler Waller, a Romeo second-grader, died from internal injuries after he crashed into a steel pole at Fenton Indoor Motocross in Fenton Township.
“I don’t know if his throttle stuck or what,” said David Waller, 45. “I assumed he got the wind knocked out of him. He said, ‘My stomach hurts,’ then he started to fall asleep. He started to fade away.”
Waller said his son rode a 50cc Cobra cycle powered by racing fuel, and his son was an experienced rider.
Tyler rode a small Honda cycle when he was less than 3 years old, his father said, and he competed statewide against other children in his age group.
Waller said he also rode dirt bikes growing up and suffered injuries, but he never suspected his son’s life was in danger.
“I’ve had my share of broken bones,” he said. “Everybody thinks it’s dangerous, but it’s a broken bones and bruising sport – not a death sport.”
Waller said he didn’t see his son’s accident but was told that Tyler appeared to be traveling far too fast when he crashed.
He said the cycle left the track and hit the pole, which he believes should have been covered by a buffer.
Tommy Barron, Fenton Indoor Motocross’ general manager, said poles and the outside of the track are buffered by hay bales. He said Tyler went through the outside buffers and about 20 feet off the track before hitting a pole near a wall.
The ensuing long wait for an ambulance was frustrating because Tyler talked to his parents and answered questions. Emergency officials and the ambulance company, Regional EMS, disagree about exactly how long it took the ambulance to arrive. The company says it took “slightly less than 19 minutes” to respond because the first vehicle it dispatched broke down on the way.
Genesee County 911 officials and Sheriff Robert J. Pickell say it took 22 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
Family members aren’t sure whether a quicker response would have made a difference, but Marketa Waller said her son was alert and initially answering questions when she “went out screaming for the ambulance” because she was frustrated it had not yet arrived.
“He was totally responsive,” she said. “He knew his name. He knew where he was going on a field trip. He knew where he was.”
Marketa Waller, 34, said her son was “the greatest kid in the world.”
“He was an awesome little boy,” she said. “He was friends with everybody.”
The motocross track closed early Monday night after staff learned of Tyler’s death, Barron said.
The track reopened Tuesday, and a staff minister went to the hospital to speak with the family. Staff and riders at the facility sent their condolences, he said.
“This is something that normally doesn’t happen,” Barron said. “There’s bumps and bruises, but nothing like this.”
Barron said riders are required to wear helmets, boots, gloves and goggles, all of which Tyler had on when he crashed.
Rider Bill Foley, 45, of Fenton Township said it’s sad to hear of another rider’s death – especially someone so young.
“It’s a terrible thing. No one wants to see anyone get hurt,” he said.