by: Holly Maynard Updated:
ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - Investigators with the Rowan County Sheriff's Office are meeting with the district attorney to determine if charges should be filed in the case of a young boy who died while operating an ATV on Thanksgiving.
Bryce Rueger, described by friends as an easygoing boy who loved to play baseball, was driving the ATV outside his home in Salisbury when it rolled over and killed him. He was attempting to turn at the time.
Rueger's 11-year-old cousin, Cameron Barr, was also on the ATV. An online donation website for Barr says that he has serious leg injuries. He had three surgeries since the accident and a fourth was scheduled for Monday. A family friend said he needs another skin graft and will eventually be able to go home to Indiana.
Right now, state law says it's illegal for children younger than 8 to operate an ATV. Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow at Action for Children North Carolina, helped draft the law in 2005.
"It's very difficult. You're trying to set up safety rules and at the same time allow for families to make some decisions," he said.
Vitaglione said he and others wanted it to be illegal for kids under 12 to operate ATVs, but they met resistance. He said since the law was created in 2005, the number of child deaths from ATVs has gone down dramatically. However, he said even if they are strengthened again, they can't save every child.
"Education is the key, and regrettably, there will always be some people who chose not to accept the guidance," he said.
Vitaglione also said the ATV industry strongly advises against carrying passengers, because they can easily throw off the balance and cause the ATV to tip.
"Certainly for a little child, no way should there be a passenger on it," he said.
Eyewitness News learned legislation regarding ATVs is not on the agenda for next year's legislative session, and it's not clear if any lawmaker is interested in bringing the issue up again after that.
Rueger was a second-grader at Rocky River Middle School in Mooresville. A district spokeswoman said counselors were available on Monday to help students deal with the tragedy.
Rueger's funeral is scheduled for Wednesday in Indiana.