Thirteen-year-old Tyler Butcher was looking forward to going squirrel hunting the next day with his dad. They were already packed up. "That's one reason I bought the ATV, because we like to hunt," Scott Butcher said.
But the next day, Tyler was dead.
Tyler Scott Butcher had blue eyes and blond hair cut in a flat top. He was a Boy Scout. He liked the outdoors. He wanted to be a carpenter like his dad. "But I didn't push that. It's no kind of life, and him being diabetic, he'd have to stop to eat snacks. He'd been on the insulin pump for two years. So I told him, no, you get an education. But I wish you could see some of the things he made. He was all the time wanting to work on something, put something together."
The accident happened Sept. 27. They'd been working together, father and son, installing doors in a house about a half-mile from his home in Shady Spring, Raleigh County. Tyler had to go home to eat.
Tyler rode the four-wheeler home, followed by his dad in the truck. While Tyler ate lunch, his dad left to run an errand. "We were supposed to meet back where we'd been. My wife assumed I'd had enough time to get back. But there was a homecoming parade, and I got held up in traffic."
So Tyler headed out on the ATV to meet his father. "It was just a half-mile stretch. He'd be going 15 miles an hour. He wouldn't be going in the woods. What could happen?"
Tyler lost control of the ATV on the gravel road. He was thrown from the four-wheeler and killed. He wasn't wearing a helmet.
The Butchers are flat-road bikers, members of the American Motorcycle Association. But bikes are different, he said. "With a cycle, you can get away from it. Four-wheelers probably should be outlawed all together. It's an awkward thing, big and clumsy."
He preaches the importance of wearing helmets, he said, but he doesn't believe they should be mandatory. "This country was founded for a free people," he said. "Another law added is just another freedom gone."
A mandatory helmet law would unfairly punish parents if a child refused to wear one, he said. "The parent shouldn't bear the responsibility for a kid disobeying. If a kid is killed on a four-wheeler and the law said he had to have a helmet but he left the house without it, then you're looking at prosecution on top of losing a son.
"I've been strict with my boys. I told them 15 minutes before the accident happened that if I caught them doing anything out of the way on the ATV, I would take it away and sell it. But a lot of things you say to kids, they don't take heed."
Tyler's brother saw the accident. "He said Tyler swerved into a yard and went to turn around and rolled over. There was a scratch on his back and his hand, but no other marks anywhere."
The police report said he died of head injuries. "Maybe a helmet would have saved him," Scott Butcher said. "Everyone has their demons, what if this and what if that. What if we'd never bought the ATV?"
To contact staff writer Sandy Wells, use e-mail or call 348-5173.