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Christina Portaro's death brings ATV dangers to light

Christina Portaro's death brings ATV dangers to light

By Makayla Zurn. CREATED Sep 6, 2011

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) - 16-year-old Christina Portaro was enjoying her Labor Day weekend with family in Brian Head, Utah when their vacation took a tragic turn.

Christina was riding a four-wheeler up a steep hill when the ATV flipped, landing on top of her. She was wearing a helmet, but it came off during the crash. She died from massive head injuries.

"We've just lost potential, the community has lost something that is so valuable it's just almost to painful to talk about, said Shelley Cochran of Safe Kids Clark County.

Cochran didn't know Portaro, but she's seen her fair share of loss as a Las Vegas paramedic for 13 years.

In 2008 the CPSC reported 616 deaths and more than 135,000 emergency room visits from ATV accidents.

"That's where we get into trouble," said Cochran. "When we think it's not going to happen to us and our attention wavers that's where the problems start," she said. 

Paying attention is the number one precaution Cochran says to take when on an ATV.

Reports from the Brian Head Marshal's Office say Portaro's friend noticed she was texting on her cell phone and that her helmet was on but unlatched.

"Even kids who were wearing helmets, almost 20 percent of them still died because the injuries are so severe. It's because you're on a motor vehicle," said Cochran.

And it's important to remember how powerful they can be.

Officials from the Brian Head Marshals Office say Portaro's ATV slipped on a steep hill then rolled on top of her. They say the trails at the resort can be dusty, steep and rough, so it's important to follow the speed limits and keep that helmet secure.

Officers in Brian Head, Utah respond to more than 300 ATV and snowmobile accidents a year.  Christina Portaro's death is the only fatality reported there so far this year.