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14-year-old critically injured after hitting tree while riding dirt bike in Port St. Lucie

Teen wasn't wearing helmet or other protective gear, police say
Posted at 7:27 PM, Sep 25, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A 14-year-old is in critical condition after crashing his dirt bike into a tree in Port St. Lucie, according to police.

Port St. Lucie police said at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the teen was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk along Southeast Port St. Lucie Boulevard, heading westbound, and went off into the grass in front of an insurance company.

Surveillance video obtained by WPTV showed the teen riding the dirt bike back and forth across the business's lawn without a helmet. At one point, the teen was seen losing control and crashing into a tree.

Several minutes later, a passersby ran to help and one can be seen on the phone. Minutes after that, police, an ambulance and a fire truck arrived at the scene and took out a stretcher.

Assistant Port St. Lucie Police Chief of Police Leo Niemczyk speaks about the injury of a teen riding a dirt bike.
Assistant Port St. Lucie Police Chief of Police Leo Niemczyk speaks about the injury of a teen riding a dirt bike.

Police said the teen was airlifted to the hospital and is still there recovering.

"When you have a child in that range, it usually hits home," Assistant Chief of Police Leo Niemczyk said.

Niemczyk said what makes it even more tragic is that it was preventable.

Florida law requires anyone under the age of 16 to wear a United States Department of Transportation-approved helmet and safety eye protection.

It's also against the law to ride on public roads. You can only ride on designated trails, off-paved roads, and even then, at a safe speed.

"We didn't have that in this case, which is always a concern," Niemczyk said. "Inexperienced operators operating around the roadway is always a formula for something bad to happen."

Statistics from the federal government show that more than 60 people die each year from dirt bike crashes.
Statistics from the federal government show that more than 60 people die each year from dirt bike crashes.

It's not the first time something like this has happened in Florida.

A 14-year-old Loxahatchee teen was killed in a dirt bike crash in January. Then in July, an 11-year-old was killed in a dirt bike wreck in Miami-Dade County.

According to a study from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 61 dirt bike riders die each year, and 66% of them weren't wearing a helmet.

"Just operate these vehicles the way they were intended to be operated," Niemczyk said.

WPTV called around to motocross and dirt bike groups in Florida. While none of them could meet us for an interview, Dirt Riders 2.0 in Okeechobee said the organization is horrified this happened, and said the group pushes safety and responsibility, requiring helmets and safety gear at all events.