04/11/07 — Safety urged at Busco Beach

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Safety urged at Busco Beach

By Lee Williams
Published in News on April 11, 2007 1:45 PM

The death of a Raleigh man, who died from injuries he sustained in a four-wheeler accident at Busco Beach on Sunday, has rekindled an ongoing debate about safety at the sprawling recreational facility.

Bobby Keith Renfrow, 31, died from severe head injuries he received at about 2 p.m. when he fell off his all-terrain vehicle at Busco Beach, officials said.

Mar Mac Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Harrell said Renfrow was not wearing a helmet, he said.

Rescue crews transported Renfrow to Wayne Memorial Hospital. He was later transported by air ambulance to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville where he later died, Harrell said.

The incident marks the fourth fatality in less than seven years at Busco Beach. Busco Beach is a recreation area located on Bryan Boulevard near Waynesbor-ough State Park, which boasts 1,600 acres of riding trails, a 125-acre lake and an RV camping site.

Mark Conrad Haugen II, 20, of Richlands died on April 29, 2006, in an ATV accident at Busco Beach.

Eli Morales Lopez, 19, of Cabin Creek Drive, Seven Springs died on June 27, 2004, at Busco Beach. Lopez, who could not swim, stepped into a deep hole, panicked and drowned.

Mauro Zamora-Vasquez, 28, of Goldsboro died June 25, 2000, when he drowned while swimming with a friend at Busco Beach.

In addition to the fatalities at the privately owned facility, emergency crews have responded to a number of injuries at Busco Beach.

Harrell said there have been several accidents at Busco Beach, but only "a small percentage" of visitors have been hurt or fatally injured.

Statistics on the number of accidents reported were unavailable at presstime.

Harrell said during peak season, about 800 to 900 people come to Busco Beach each weekend. He said many people come with their families and have no problem, but some visitors occasionally get hurt when they ignore safety precautions.

"Some don't use good judgment," he said. "They drive too fast."

He added Sunday's tragedy could have been prevented.

"He would have had a whole lot better chance if he had a helmet on," Harrell said. "The helmet would have helped a lot."

According to state law, all ATV operators -- including adults -- must wear helmets and face protection, said Debbie Crane, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Violators could face up to a $200 fine, she said.

Mrs. Crane said the law is enforceable on public and private property. However, if the ATV is used for farm purposes, hunting or trapping, then the law does not apply, she added.

Owner Jack Bennett rejects the claim that safety is an issue at Busco Beach. He said Busco Beach opened in 1992 and since its opening, only four deaths have been logged at the business.

He said Busco Beach has an "excellent safety record," but added incidents like the one that claimed Renfrow's life trouble him.

"When people recreate, and there are motor vehicles involved, you're going to have a number of injuries and sometimes deaths," Bennett said. "I can't tell you how it horrifies me when something like that happens. I was a Raleigh police officer for 10 years and I saw death, but nothing could prepare me for this."

Bennett, 53, knows some have been seriously or fatally injured at Busco Beach, but he doesn't want a few incidents to overshadow the positive fun at the site. He said Busco Beach is an asset.

"I think it's one of the finest things that ever happened in Wayne County," he said.

Bennett said safety signs are posted throughout the business and ATV safety courses are taught at Busco Beach, but some still ignore safety rules.

"We can't monitor them at every turn," he said. "We post the state law and we post 'ride at your own risk' signs."

No alcohol is sold on the premises and visitors are discouraged from bringing alcohol, he said. Alcohol and drug use is also dissuaded, but he said it's difficult to stop everyone from breaking the rules.

Busco Beach will host a special event at about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 20-21. ATV vendors will be on hand to show off their latest editions and Mar Mac Volunteer Fire Department's ATV team will share ATV safety tips.

The public is welcome, Bennett said.