State Trooper helped save two children trapped underneath crashed ATV submerged in creek

Two children had been trapped for about 30 minutes with just their chins above water before rescue

Harrowing tale should remind ATV users of safety practices & protocols 

By Sgt. Stephen Townsend, Wyoming Highway Patrol

(Casper, Wyo.)  – A law enforcement officer rarely knows what to expect when they begin their shift. Troopers may often encounter dangerous and hazardous incidents
on any given day. The events during the evening of April 25th just after 7:00 p.m. were just such an encounter for a Casper Trooper.

Trooper William Kirkman was patrolling south of Casper when he overheard a radio dispatch of an ATV crash on the Ratter Q Ranch which is located on WYO 487 approximately 23 miles south of Casper. The information broadcast was that an ATV had crashed into Bates Creek and flipped upside down pinning two children ages 3 and 10 under the ATV in water. The broadcast information further stated that the person calling was unable to lift the ATV off the children.

When Trooper Kirkman arrived on scene he met the mother of the children who was wet and covered in mud. She had found her children and had attempted to lift the ATV off them with the help of her 12 year-old son but they both were unable to move the several hundred pound machine which had gone off a 5 foot drop going into the creek. Trooper Kirkman could hear the children screaming and could see the ATV upside down in the creek resting against a culvert with just the tires and some of the undercarriage visible above the water line.

ATV Safety training is available from the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Department's State Trails Program. (Wyo. St. Parks)

Trooper Kirkman entered the creek which had water and mud up to his waist and located the children under the ATV with just their chins just above the water line. Walking in the creek was difficult due to the soft mud. As Trooper Kirkman and the mom attempted to lift the ATV they sank deeper in the soft mud. The two rescuers repositioned themselves whereupon Trooper Kirkman was able to partially lift the ATV and pulled the 3 year-old from underneath the machine handing the child to the mother. Trooper Kirkman was then able to free the 10 year-old and carried the child to the creek bank.

Trooper Kirkman and a second responding Trooper, Trooper Jonathan Russell who arrived on scene after everyone had been extricated from the creek, supplied blankets to all involved as the children were hypothermic. First aid care for the children was eventually turned over to responding Natrona County Fire District, Wyoming Medical Center and Life Flight personnel. The 3 year- old was transported by Life Flight to Wyoming Medical Center in Casper where it was determined the child had a broken leg. The 10 year-old was transported to Wyoming Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

Since this ATV crash did not occur on a State roadway the incident was turned over to the Natrona County Sheriff’s Department for that agency to investigate.

It was estimated that the children had been pinned under the ATV for as long as 30 minutes. Without the heroic efforts of Trooper Kirkman and the mother working as a team to free the submerged children the outcome may have been much different for this family.

The University of Wyoming has published an ATV safety guide, which can be found at: