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ATV rider dies in crash at motorcycle park

A 20-year-old Clearwater man was killed when his four-wheel all-terrain vehicle fell on him while he was riding Friday in a sand pit at the Croom Motorcycle Area in the Withlacoochee State Forest.

Parker J. Crockett of 1999 Elliott Drive, a regular at the motorcycle park in northeast Hernando County, was riding over a mogullike dirt mound _ called "whoops" by cyclists _ when he lost control and was catapulted over the handlebars, said Florida Highway Patrol Cpl. Earl Frazier. The ATV then fell on top of him, Frazier said.

Crockett, who was wearing a helmet, was treated at the scene by paramedics with Florida Regional EMS before being flown by Aero-Med helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Cyclists are supposed to stop riding at sunset, and it was already getting dark when Crockett crashed just before 6 p.m., park ranger Robert Rodriguez said.

"He shouldn't have been out there," Rodriguez said. Family members of Crockett declined to comment Saturday.

Rodriguez, who briefly revived Crockett at the scene with chest compression techniques, said crashes at the motorcycle park are frequent.

In fact, another cyclist suffered a broken collarbone in the west side of the park just an hour before Crockett's accident. That cyclist was a professional, Rodriguez said. Saturday morning, a 13-year-old boy sustained minor injuries when he fell while riding unsupervised, park officials said.

Nearly three years ago, a Delaware woman was killed in the park when her all-terrain vehicle collided head-on with a car.

Accidents involving broken bones are common on crowded days, Rodriguez said. The check-in gate logged 466 riders on Friday.

With riders motoring in all directions, Rodriguez said, "we have a lot of close calls. And there are a lot of collisions. They get careless. We try to emphasize safety."

Trucks toting motorcycles and ATVs were backed up three and four deep at the check-in gate Saturday morning. The 2,600-acre park, behind the Holiday Inn at Interstate 75 and State Road 50, is billed as the only state property in Florida dedicated to off-road motorcycle and ATV riders. It draws cyclists, many of them motocross professionals, from all over the country.

Before the area became a state motorcycle park in 1973, it was mined for phosphates by a man with the last name Buttgenback, the name commonly used for the 5-acre sandy pit where Crockett crashed.

"You can just about tell when you're going to get accidents," Rodriguez said, watching the steady stream of cyclists pour through the check-in gate.

Said Cpl. Frazier, who made his first trip to the motorcycle area to investigate Crockett's accident: "It's amazing we don't have more fatalities out there."

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