July 26, 2011 in City

Boy loses fingers in BMX race at Dwight Merkel

By The Spokesman-Review

An 8-year-old boy lost five fingers on two hands when they were crushed by a starting gate last Wednesday at the BMX bicycle track at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in Northwest Spokane.

Spokane city officials said they are looking into the accident and the safety of the mechanism used to start BMX competitions.

The boy, Christopher Yoho, apparently lost balance just ahead of the start and grabbed the top of the gate as it dropped to the starting position in the race last Wednesday, according to family and eyewitness reports.

He is the son of Ryan Yoho and Amanda Suydam, of Spokane.

The boy was treated and later released from the hospital. His family declined to comment on the incident.

Marlene Feist, spokeswoman for the city of Spokane, said the gate operates by hydraulics and is used to hold back racers at the start of race events at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex next to Joe Albi Stadium. The mechanism is a long, horizontal barrier to racers and drops quickly at start time.

“It is only used at approved practices and events,” she said.

Feist said the gate meets standards of the American Bike Association.

“We are just starting our investigation,” she said.

She said city staff is “very concerned about this child and his family.”

“Our hearts go out to him and his family.”

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