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Snowmobilers unite in mourning Chisago City 2-year-old
Larry Oakes
Star Tribune

Published Jan 25 2002
In his short life, 2-year-old Ryan Anderson was one Minnesota family's precious little boy.

Since he was hit and killed Monday by a snowmobiler who had been drinking and was speeding, Ryan has become a focus of sorrow and compassion for snowmobilers and others across the United States, Canada and even Europe.

Many have posted messages on Internet forums for snowmobile enthusiasts, expressing anguish for Ryan's family and outrage at the apparent criminal negligence that caused his death in front of his parents and sisters.

"I'm a mother and cannot imagine such a loss," Kristine York of Sheridan, Wyo., said Thursday.

York joined an Internet forum about the toddler's death on a Web site maintained by SnoWest, a magazine for snowmobilers.

The Anderson family was sliding Monday night in a Chisago City park when a snowmobile driven by 17-year-old Nicholas Johns flew over the crest of the hill, hit the boy and sped away. The park is posted off-limits to snowmobiles.

Johns later admitted his involvement and that he'd been drinking, police said. He was charged with vehicular homicide and is at home awaiting further court proceedings.

While police try to determine who sold or gave beer to Johns, some Chisago County parents are calling for a crackdown on teen drinking, and snowmobilers from near and far are sharing the family's grief and lamenting the damage the incident could do to their sport.

A Minnesota contributor posted a news story about the tragedy on the SnoWest site on Tuesday, and by Thursday afternoon, snowmobilers from across the country had posted 66 messages.

"I am heartbroken," wrote MMWildman, using a nickname, as is common in such forums. "As a parent, it is my job to make sure that my children are never involved in something like this. We all have that responsibility as parents and as snowmobilers."

A call for donations

"Since Tuesday I've tried to visualize a hundred times how in the world you could run over a kid," said Dan Turen, owner of Indy Specialty snowmobile repair in Shakopee. He posted a message to the site, and he, like many others, called for riders to flood Ryan's memorial fund with donations, cards and flowers.

The Andersons have said the fund may be used for a community project to benefit children. One forum contributor is trying to generate support for a nationwide car caravan of snowmobile riders to personally deliver their donations to the family.

"He was so small, and this happened in such a brutal way, and he must have been so near his parents," Turen said. "Donations can't bring him back, but maybe they can help the family to do something positive in his memory."

Turen also expressed sorrow for a second family -- the Johnses. "He [Nicholas Johns] needs to pay for what he did, but I feel sympathy for him, too."

Scott MacInnes, a tax manager and snowmobiler from Embrun, Ontario, read about the tragedy Thursday on a forum and was moved to donate.

"It's such a needless waste of a life," MacInnes said by phone. "And, unfortunately, everybody who is not a snowmobiler instantly gets a bad impression. Ninety-nine percent of snowmobilers do not participate in or condone this kind of activity."

Ed Johnson, a Minnesota native stationed with the Army in Germany, got the news of Ryan's death through the Star Tribune Web site. He e-mailed the newspaper to find out if a memorial fund had been established.

"As a father I was deeply touched," Johnson wrote. "The events of 9/11 and the ongoing war have certainly softened my outlook on human suffering. . . . The desire to do anything to help is strong."

Crackdown urged

A small group of parents gathered Thursday in the park where Ryan was killed.

Their aim was to lay some of the blame for Ryan's death on what they say is a widespread use of alcohol by teenagers, a lax attitude toward it by some parents and what they say is the failure of law enforcement to significantly curb it.

"Everybody in this community knows where the parties are," said Cindy Madison. "Why must we wait until someone dies before we pay attention?"

Law enforcement officials say they, like police in most rural communities, do the best they can with limited resources.

Though the Chisago City Police Department has a "zero-tolerance" policy, testing and citing every young person suspected of drinking is impossible for a small department on a busy weekend night, said Police Chief Bill Schlumbohm.

"I think parents also need to take a stand," he said. "There are a lot more of them than there are of us."

Chief Deputy Todd Rivard of the Chisago County Sheriff's Office said that because of the parents' concerns -- expressed long before Ryan's death -- his department is considering bringing charges against more parents who furnish alcohol to minors.

His department also is trying to find out who gave or sold alcohol to Nicholas Johns. Police said he apparently drank the beer in a ice-fishing house where teenagers had gathered.

The Rev. Ernie Schmidt, the Anderson family's spokesman, said finding out how Johns got the beer "will be part of how they get closure.

"Their attitude toward the boy is that he made some bad judgments," Schmidt said. "The boy has no previous record of any kind. They have taken that into consideration. They have made clear that they don't consider him a monster."


• Ryan Anderson

Memorial Fund

RiverBank MN, Box G,

Chisago City, MN 55013.

4,659 Posts
Ladyk and i are deeply sorrowed by this tragedy. Our condolances and sympathy go out to all families involved.  Being the parents of small children this hits really close to home.

journeyman sled/motorhead
4,440 Posts
sad indeed, that is why you need to follow my signature when riding,RIDE RESPONSIBLY.

2,037 Posts
Some snowmobilers just dont have a F*ckin Clue. Sad Stuff...

11,658 Posts
i feel for the family, sad.

 i said it once in a previous post that us snowmobilers are not front runners in a popularity contest. something like this is what helps us all look bad as a group.

 i believe snowmobilers by percentage do alot less drinking while doing their passion than most groups. this is going to have to be brought out somewhere in statistics because right now in ontario same sex marriages are under higher regard than us sledders. after every news bulletin of a sled mishap you always hear alcohol and speed were a factor, no kidding ? did it ever occur to anyone that if alcohol was not a factor then speed wouldn't be either ?

 we must invite the lawkeepers into the snowmobile clubhouses and more then ever as a group help out with reducing the use of alcohol on our trail. either by assisting in R.I.D.E. programs or whoever has a great idea put it in a following post.
 a friend of mine once said you can't monitor what you don't know. without the help of everyone we will never know enough too be able to protect our sport. so after tragedy remember to think with empathy not sympathy.

308 Posts
I am always saddened by someones loss of a child because I know from first hand experience
what a devastaing effect it has on a parents life.   now they belong to the same club . It is a club no one in club ever ever recruits new members.  and hates whenever it gets a new member.
I know everyone wants to do something but is already done.  you can not bring the dead back
or change the event that takes a life affter the fact.    All you can do is do something for the family make sure they do not have to do anything clean cook wash dishes whatever.  or just be there if you know them personaly.   the worst thing (in my opinon)  is work to make another law
we do not need more.  tragic things happen with young persons because they do not realize the consequences of there actions.   It takes adults to always know what your children are doing.  whether they are 2 yrs old or 17.
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