Son’s death fuels battle for motorcycle safety

by Amanda Moulton 4,319 views0

Three years after a tragic motorcycle crash that claimed the life of their son, the Tarrant family of Santa Clarita continues an on-going battle to increase safety testing on protective neck gear.

It had never crossed Kathy Tarrant’s mind that on a typical Sunday she would be getting a call that would turn her world upside down.

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Cory riding at Piru
Photo courtesy of Tarrant family

Youngest son Cory called and said he was going to head home from Piru Motocross Park. Not long after, Kathy got another call from older son Derek, who was not at the track at the time, saying he found out Cory had crashed his bike.  Mom and dad rushed to the track only to see a fire truck and ambulance already on scene. Kathy knew it was bad, and they were going to have to bring in a helicopter to airlift Cory to the hospital.

Cory was unconscious and on a respirator, because after a neck injury the signals that tell your body to breathe and the heart to pump are interrupted.  He was in an induced coma, so he was comfortable and calm. Cory never regained consciousness, he never woke up to know he had fallen or was terribly injured.  Six days later, at the young age of 17, Cory could no longer fight. Cory died on June 30, 2012.

“It never ever dawned us that something this tragic could happen at a local track, while he was going 25 miles an hour,” said Kathy. “Cory was an amazing rider and I thought he was going to be okay. I thought the more they rode, the better they got, the safer they would be.” The whole way to the hospital Kathy kept saying, “he’s going to be okay, he’s got a brand new expensive helmet on and he’s got his neck brace on. He’s going to be okay, he’s going to be okay.” After arriving at the Los Robles Trauma Center, that’s when they got the word that Cory had broken his neck in two places. “Those were the words I’d never ever thought we’d hear, because he was wearing his so-called protective neck brace,” said Kathy.

Growing up, safety was the No. 1 priority. Riding wasn’t about the money, going pro, or getting the “golden ring” to the Tarrant’s. A lot of families get lost in the hype of wanting their kids to go professional, but don’t realize the business that goes on behind the scenes.

The family soon putting aside the grief of Cory’s death to focus on how others could avoid the same fate.

“There’s a lot of danger in the sport, but I think if some people would actually take the time to get some more information and be able to put that out for everybody, I think it would happen a little bit less, and that’s obviously a good thing even if it’s just a little bit,” said Derek.

When neck braces first came out, manufacturers did not publish safety-testing results. After all the commotion with the status of neck braces, the companies have posted them but the most recent found was from six years ago. Also the videos posted online that supposedly break down the results, were posted in 2012 and there are only three episodes versus a 145-page result.

Motocross blog VurbMoto contributor David Izer believes that, “skeptics want more data but the approval on such a study remains frustratingly in the future while the decision to wear a neck brace is very much in the present. I simply want safety to follow the same trend and keep pushing the envelope along with performance, and I feel the neck brace is the next logical step in that progression.”

Riding was a family affair. The Tarrant’s built the love of riding around camping and having a good time being together. They would take a trip to Glamis, CA., every other weekend. Derek was around 9-years-old when he got his first bike, and Cory was around 2. Cory lived to ride dirt bikes. “He embodied the whole spirit of riding,” said Kathy. “Every day that Cory rode, he was in a good mood. It was a good day even if the track was muddy or dry, he never complained about anything.”

The Tarrant’s own a motorcycle shop called C&D Motosports in Santa Clarita. After coming back from such a tragic accident you would think the family would just pack up and go, but instead they stayed. “It’s hard, but it’s something that we all love to do, and we’re really involved with, so it’d be a lot harder just to quit,” said Derek. “It’s cheesy but everyone says it, it’s not what Cory would want anybody to do.” It’s almost if the Tarrant’s have a new purpose. “If Cory was still here we’d still be doing this, we’re not going to change everything around because of what happened. And this gives us an outlet to help people get the information they need and everybody safer, that’s why we stay here,” said Derek.

The Tarrant’s have one simple yet bold message: “do your research.” When it comes to safety equipment, know what you’re wearing and don’t believe whatever you read from the magazines and reviews. Motocross equipment should be stamped with DOT, ECE 22.05 or Snell stickers, which are three organizations that set safety standards for motorcycle equipment.

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C&D Motosports
Photo by Amanda Moulton

Walking into C&D Motosports today, Cory’s presence doesn’t seem too far in the past, with lots of pictures on the walls of him riding his dirt bike, to memorabilia you yourself can hold on to.  Cory’s bike is also sitting proudly in the shop; if you look closely you can see personal messages on the bike from Cory’s adoring friends and family.

You can also find Kathy sitting behind the counter still considering what she might say to someone whose child wants to ride, “it’s not about going fast, it’s not all about going crazy, it’s about having a good time, maintaining your equipment, and riding with the proper safety equipment on.”