Sarasota, Florida -- "He was more protected than required," said Ford Snodgrass, president of the Florida Trail Riders about Evan Max.
Despite all the protective gear Evan wore Saturday morning it wasn't enough to save the 7-year-old's life during a sanctioned dirt bike race in Myakka City.
The boy was killed while racing in the Buffalo Stampede Hare Scramble on ATV motorcycle trails at a large agricultural pasture in Manatee County. The race was put on by the Sarasota Area Dirt Riders.
Evan was on the pee-wee course made for racers between the ages of 5-8. The course is a mile and half around.
Snodgrass said a course worker had crossed the 15-foot-wide track to help another racer who was down. Snodgrass said the course monitor's bike was 95% off the track. When Evan rounded the corner, Snodgrass said Evan collided with the back end of the worker's bike.
"He hit the back of the bike. The bike T-boned the other bike, stopped there and fell over," he said.
Organizers say Evan is the first youth who's died in FTR's 30-year history.
"It's devastating for all of us," Snodgrass said.
"This is not a reckless event," said Bob Poneleit, co-owner of Haps Cycle Sales in Sarasota.
Poneleit said like any sport the gear is sized for kids.
"They've come out with small cycles like this. The throttles are governed, the speeds reduced and they have the best suspensions and best brakes to account for the size of the child."
There's also protective gear from head to toe.
Poneleit said the helmets give full coverage.
"You have chin, face, cheek and head protection with the helmet here."
The chest gear is made of a thick plastic which protects the chest, shoulders and back. There are elbow and knee pads that stretch down in front of the shins plus sturdy boots that lock on.
Despite all the protective gear available, Snodgrass said the American Motorcycle Association and FTR only require racers wear helmets and boots all the other gear is recommended.
Snodgrass said sometimes cost can be a factor -- all the protective gear can run about $1,000. Another factor, he said, why some racers don't wear all the gear is the heat.
"We're in Florida and it gets hot. If we require them to wear more we put them at risk for heat exhaustion -- it's a balance," he said.
"It's just as safe as we can make it," said Poneleit.
Keeping young riders off the track isn't much of an option said Snodgrass. He compares that to keeping a kid off the football or baseball field.
"To see the joy in their faces -- they love it. It's a passion like playing football or baseball," said Snodgrass.
While the Manatee Sheriff's Office ruled Evan's death an accident an autopsy is being performed to determine the exact cause of death.
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