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Another Yamaha Rhino Death Reported in New York

Jun 1, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

A fatal Yamaha Rhino accident in upstate New York is raising fresh concerns about the safety about the popular off-road vehicle.   Though the victim in this incident was not wearing a seat belt or helmet, his father claims he was not aware the Rhino had been involved in dozens of fatal rollover accidents over the past several years.

Wyatt Spencer, 13 -years-old, was killed last Thursday in Knox, NY when the Yamaha Rhino he was riding rolled over last Thursday afternoon. A friend who was riding in the Yamaha as a passenger was not injured.

Last year, complaints about the Yamaha Rhino prompted the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to open an investigation of the vehicle. In March, the commission said it had investigated 50 Rhino accidents which had resulted in 46 deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. According to the CPSC, more than two-thirds of the cases involved rollovers.

The investigation prompted the CPSC and Yamaha to announce a recall of all Rhino 450, 660 and 700 models distributed since fall of 2003. Under the recall, Yamaha will repair the vehicles free of charge. These repairs include the installation of a spacer on the rear wheels as well as the removal of the rear anti-sway bar to help reduce the chance of rollover and improve vehicle handling, and continued installation of half doors and additional passenger handholds where these features have not been previously installed to help keep occupants’ arms and legs inside the vehicle during a rollover and reduce injuries. The company is also extending a free helmet offer to owners of the affected Yamaha Rhinos.

Wyatt Spencer had only received the Yamaha 450 a few hours before his fatal accident.   His father, James Spencer, told a local TV station that Wyatt was very experienced with off road vehicles, 4 wheelers, motor bikes and tractors.

According to a report on,  Wyatt 's father said that he had only been told that the Rhino's "rear tires needed to be retro-fitted for stability reasons."   Those repairs had been made prior to Wyatt's accident. James Spencer said that he was also not aware that deaths had occurred in Rhino rollover accidents.  He also questioned the effectiveness of the repairs that had been made on Wyatt's Rhino.  "It seems to me that you would want to stabilize all four corners on these things instead of just the rear wheels," the elder Spencer said. "It just doesn't make sense to me."

It hasn't been determined yet what role the design of the Yamaha Rhino may have played in Wyatt's crash. However, police have pointed out that Wyatt's failure to use his seat belt or a helmet contributed to its seriousness.

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