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US father’s warning after six-year-old dies after being impaled by his bike’s handlebars

Handlebar tube had become exposed through the grips

A US father has advised parents to examine their children’s bikes after his six-year-old son lost his life following a freak accident which saw him impaled by the end of his handlebars.

NBC reports that Denny Curran was riding his bike with friends on quiet residential roads in Pullman, Washington State, last month, when he fell.

According to Denny’s father, Keith: "For some reason, and I don't know yet, the bicycle handlebars turned ninety degrees and impacted the asphalt and impaled him in his abdomen."

He was airlifted to hospital. Writing on Facebook, Keith said: “He tore his iliac artery and lacerated his abdomen. He stopped breathing and CPR was performed. They had to clamp off the artery.”

Denny died the following day.

The T-shirt Denny was wearing had a perfect circle where the handlebar impaled him. It seems the handlebar tubing on his bike lacked bar end plugs and the edges had worn through the rubber grips.

"This bicycle's handlebar tubes," said Keith, "they are these tubes and they have some serration on the end of them, and through normal operation of bike it saws off the rubber on the grips and they poke through.”

He added: "I looked at the bicycle afterwards and I see that the grip had been moved forward. I don't know if that was from the impact of his body hitting it or if that was from operational use."

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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48 comments

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Jimmy Ray Will | 5 years ago
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Interesting one this (looking beyond the obvious tragedy).

On one level, it is up to parents / cyclists to maintain their bikes effectively. On the other side, there is a known issue here, and equally, it is known that kids will inevitably drop their bike on their bars. Over time, this dropping will destroy most grips, meaning that it is inevitable that most bikes will present an avoidable nature at some point.

Mindful of the above, rather than legislation to develop grips strengh / use, I'd suggest the answer is that kids bikes, as standard come with bars manufactured not to have open ends. 

Yes this is a pain in the arse for manufacturers, but to not do so, is knowingly risking lives for profit / convenience. 

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Johnny5 | 5 years ago
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The sad irony  in all of this is that Trek re-designed the children's grips to prevent such injuries (and spleen injuries) a few years back. I am unable to find the link detailing the doctor/pediatrician who came up with the design after his child suffered a similar injury. The grips have extra rubber and protection at the plug end, as well as a plug that goes inside the bar end with the rubber grip then covering both. They were implemented around 2013-14 (if not a bit earlier). If that is the actual bike in the photo, it appears as though the grips had suffered damage and the protection pieces were no longer intact (assumption based only off of photo).

Such an unnescessary death. Condolences to the family. 

 

https://www.thebikelane.com/images/library/zoom/trek-jet-16-copy-211847-1.jpg

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ChrisB200SX | 5 years ago
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Did anyone notice it looks as though the grip is on the wrong way round, suggesting that it's come off and been put back on incorrectly. This should have been the point at which someone noticed it was dangerous?

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TheHungryGhost replied to ChrisB200SX | 5 years ago
1 like
ChrisB200SX wrote:

Did anyone notice it looks as though the grip is on the wrong way round, suggesting that it's come off and been put back on incorrectly. This should have been the point at which someone noticed it was dangerous?

Kids bikes often have grips like this with a flanged outer.

This article did make me go and check my kids bikes, and one needed a plug in one end as the rubber grip was worn away.

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Bmblbzzz | 5 years ago
2 likes

There's a report on road.cc's sister site of a petition for all children's bikes sold in UK to have bar end plugs. 

http://off.road.cc/content/news/petition-created-for-all-childrens-bicycles-sold-in-the-uk-to-have-handlebar-plugs

I thought this was already the law though, and even if not the law it's certainly done in practice – no one sells a new bike without some sort of plugs in the bar ends. The problem comes when the bike has been used a bit and they wear out, get broken. 

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bikeman01 replied to Bmblbzzz | 5 years ago
1 like
Bmblbzzz wrote:

There's a report on road.cc's sister site of a petition for all children's bikes sold in UK to have bar end plugs. 

http://off.road.cc/content/news/petition-created-for-all-childrens-bicycles-sold-in-the-uk-to-have-handlebar-plugs

I thought this was already the law though, and even if not the law it's certainly done in practice – no one sells a new bike without some sort of plugs in the bar ends. The problem comes when the bike has been used a bit and they wear out, get broken. 

Exactly - what a pointless petition. You can't legislate against neglect unless of course they introduce bicycle MOTs. 

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kil0ran replied to bikeman01 | 5 years ago
1 like
bikeman01 wrote:
Bmblbzzz wrote:

There's a report on road.cc's sister site of a petition for all children's bikes sold in UK to have bar end plugs. 

http://off.road.cc/content/news/petition-created-for-all-childrens-bicycles-sold-in-the-uk-to-have-handlebar-plugs

I thought this was already the law though, and even if not the law it's certainly done in practice – no one sells a new bike without some sort of plugs in the bar ends. The problem comes when the bike has been used a bit and they wear out, get broken. 

Exactly - what a pointless petition. You can't legislate against neglect unless of course they introduce bicycle MOTs. 

It seems to me that there's a simple solution here though - plug the ends of the bars under the grips. That way if when the grip gets damaged there's no risk of impalement. If the bars are designed for rubber grips is there any reason for them to be hollow all the way out to the ends? This is something straightforward for a manufacturer to remedy, in the same way that bikes should be sold with bells, a rear reflector, and pedal reflectors.

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CygnusX1 replied to Bmblbzzz | 5 years ago
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Bmblbzzz wrote:

I thought this was already the law though, and even if not the law it's certainly done in practice – no one sells a new bike without some sort of plugs in the bar ends. The problem comes when the bike has been used a bit and they wear out, get broken. 

Yes parents need to watch out for wear and tear, but..

There's a difference between bar end-plugs and the closed cup rubber/plastic grips that just slot over the bars and are typical of a kid's bike. The material used in the grips is generally softer and, whilst may be thicker at the end, it still can cut through with the (ab)use a kid's bike gets far more easily than a harder bar plug would.

Again, because of the rubbery nature of the material, it can cut through say 75% of the cap but still look whole to a casual inspection, but will then deform and hinge inside the bar end when a force exerted (by a child's body landing on it say).

Hard platic bar ends tend to be either in or broken, and completely out - thus eaiser for a responsible adult to detect and resolve..   

 

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Bmblbzzz replied to CygnusX1 | 5 years ago
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CygnusX1 wrote:
Bmblbzzz wrote:

I thought this was already the law though, and even if not the law it's certainly done in practice – no one sells a new bike without some sort of plugs in the bar ends. The problem comes when the bike has been used a bit and they wear out, get broken. 

Yes parents need to watch out for wear and tear, but..

There's a difference between bar end-plugs and the closed cup rubber/plastic grips that just slot over the bars and are typical of a kid's bike. The material used in the grips is generally softer and, whilst may be thicker at the end, it still can cut through with the (ab)use a kid's bike gets far more easily than a harder bar plug would.

Again, because of the rubbery nature of the material, it can cut through say 75% of the cap but still look whole to a casual inspection, but will then deform and hinge inside the bar end when a force exerted (by a child's body landing on it say).

Hard platic bar ends tend to be either in or broken, and completely out - thus eaiser for a responsible adult to detect and resolve..   

 

If that's what the petition is saying, it could do with saying it a little more clearly; at least clearly enough that the difference comes across in media reports. 

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atlaz | 5 years ago
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I always use grips with a solid end on mtbs, so one piece of metal that clips into the grips. Having seen friends impale themselves on brake levers and end up in hospital on bar ends, any mitigation is welcome. 

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ktache | 5 years ago
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Ta

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kil0ran | 5 years ago
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And this one from twenty years ago calls for design changes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9193268/?i=3&from=/26038003/related

My sons bars (ex-Islabike) have a larger pad on the end - about a third larger than the bar itself.

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kil0ran | 5 years ago
2 likes

Good medical discussion here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1120385/
I was wrong on fatalities but there is a significant amount of abdominal injury requiring surgery due to bar impact. Also looks like there's a lot of research from early 80s into BMX injuries, no doubt in response to a Something Must Be Done public mania about BMX and skateboarding at the time

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CygnusX1 | 5 years ago
2 likes

My son has a circular scar on his cheek (thankfully now faded) from falling onto the bar end of his scooter. The cheap foam grips had partially cut through.

I now make sure the kid's scooters (and bikes) have locking grips .

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ktache | 5 years ago
3 likes

I am aware of bullhorn bars but spaghetti...?

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kil0ran replied to ktache | 5 years ago
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ktache wrote:

I am aware of bullhorn bars but spaghetti...?

Spinaci  1

 

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peted76 replied to ktache | 5 years ago
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ktache wrote:

I am aware of bullhorn bars but spaghetti...?

Full of protien, keep the energy levels up on a long ride! 

Bullhorn bars I find be too chewy, also the bulls don't like it much.

 

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don simon fbpe | 5 years ago
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Whilst a sad story, I choose to remove my bar ends in a display of freedom of choice.

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kil0ran | 5 years ago
2 likes

Took a big chunk out of my upper thigh when I was ten years old in a crash - grip had worn through on my Grifter. Still have a dent there almost 40 years on. Bruising was epic
I recall reading that there's around 6 fatalities a year from abdominal injuries in children, all due to impact with bars or stem.

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KiwiMike replied to kil0ran | 5 years ago
1 like
kil0ran wrote:

I recall reading that there's around 6 fatalities a year from abdominal injuries in children, all due to impact with bars or stem.

 

can you remember where Kil0ran? Was that U.K. or elsewhere? I’ve seen so many knackered grips, especially on Islabikes. I’m surprised there isn’t a proper U.K. safety standards at least, where the bar ends must be filled with plugs that cannot be pushed in, not just covered with thin crap rubber that’s part of a grip that will wear through after a few decent offs. 

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OldRidgeback replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
1 like
KiwiMike wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

I recall reading that there's around 6 fatalities a year from abdominal injuries in children, all due to impact with bars or stem.

 

can you remember where Kil0ran? Was that U.K. or elsewhere? I’ve seen so many knackered grips, especially on Islabikes. I’m surprised there isn’t a proper U.K. safety standards at least, where the bar ends must be filled with plugs that cannot be pushed in, not just covered with thin crap rubber that’s part of a grip that will wear through after a few decent offs. 

It's shocking really how many parents let their kids ride bikes in poor condition.

As I said earlier, wine bottle corks make good temporary bar ends.

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Grahamd replied to OldRidgeback | 5 years ago
5 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

I recall reading that there's around 6 fatalities a year from abdominal injuries in children, all due to impact with bars or stem.

 

can you remember where Kil0ran? Was that U.K. or elsewhere? I’ve seen so many knackered grips, especially on Islabikes. I’m surprised there isn’t a proper U.K. safety standards at least, where the bar ends must be filled with plugs that cannot be pushed in, not just covered with thin crap rubber that’s part of a grip that will wear through after a few decent offs. 

It's shocking really how many parents let their kids ride bikes in poor condition.

As I said earlier, wine bottle corks make good temporary bar ends.

What a natural correlation, kids drive you to drink, use corks from said drink to protect them.

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kil0ran replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
0 likes
KiwiMike wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

I recall reading that there's around 6 fatalities a year from abdominal injuries in children, all due to impact with bars or stem.

 

can you remember where Kil0ran? Was that U.K. or elsewhere? I’ve seen so many knackered grips, especially on Islabikes. I’m surprised there isn’t a proper U.K. safety standards at least, where the bar ends must be filled with plugs that cannot be pushed in, not just covered with thin crap rubber that’s part of a grip that will wear through after a few decent offs. 

I think it's UK stats, it was discussed on this site probably a couple of years back. They won't likely be counted in STATS19 as won't be RTAs. I'll have a dig around once I'm on a big screen

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jimhead replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
2 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

can you remember where Kil0ran? Was that U.K. or elsewhere? I’ve seen so many knackered grips, especially on Islabikes. 

 

Yeah, I've had to replace a few Islabike grips on my kid's bikes.  The problem is that there's quite a bit of rubber that overhangs the end of the bars and over time this splits.

Having a safety standard to plug the bar ends underneath the grip as you suggest seems a no-braner and would cost pennies.

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BehindTheBikesheds replied to kil0ran | 5 years ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:

Took a big chunk out of my upper thigh when I was ten years old in a crash - grip had worn through on my Grifter. Still have a dent there almost 40 years on. Bruising was epic I recall reading that there's around 6 fatalities a year from abdominal injuries in children, all due to impact with bars or stem.

Be interested to see where you got that figure from because I highly doubt it given it's equal to the total child cycling deaths for 2016, it would certainly be making big news if it were that figure IMHO.

In any case STATS19 figures include incidents on the footway or footpath and certainly shared use or just outside the front of a house if on the aforementioned 'pavement'

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ktache | 5 years ago
3 likes

Onza Porcipaws used to come with anti cookie cutter plugs, just stopped the bars cutting through the ends of the grips.  The ones I got with some club roost grips plug the ends of my cut down onza bar ends.

Love the original Hope end plugs in the X-lite riser bars on my good bike, the paintwork on cars parked up to the edge of the cycle routes may not however.  Winkey faced emoticon.

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Derk Davies | 5 years ago
2 likes

I nearly lost my tackle with exposed bar ends on my BMX.  Never rode without bar ends again, which was lucky because soon after I had the end of the bars crush my femeral artery. No pulse in my leg for a few hours  but it came back just before surgery time. That one hurt.......a lot. Very happy I had bar end plugs.

You see so many kids bikes with jagged bars hanging out of the end of the grips. So dangerous.

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Yorkshire wallet replied to Derk Davies | 5 years ago
6 likes
Tim K wrote:

I nearly lost my tackle with exposed bar ends on my BMX.  Never rode without bar ends again, which was lucky because soon after I had the end of the bars crush my femeral artery. No pulse in my leg for a few hours  but it came back just before surgery time. That one hurt.......a lot. Very happy I had bar end plugs.

You see so many kids bikes with jagged bars hanging out of the end of the grips. So dangerous.

Was about to post similar. Landed wrong, came off and stuck myself on the inner thigh leaving a nasty bruise. Could have been nasty if I'd not had really thick Troy Lee shorts on.

Rip kid just being a kid.

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atlaz | 5 years ago
6 likes

I think in most organised events, in theory no plugs means no participation. Doubt it’s enforced rigorously 

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OldRidgeback replied to atlaz | 5 years ago
3 likes
atlaz wrote:

I think in most organised events, in theory no plugs means no participation. Doubt it’s enforced rigorously 

We enforce this at our BMX club. A kid riding at the park some years ago had a similar crash, again with fatal results. He wasn't actually on the BMX track at the time, but it was closed anyway until the incident assessment had been done. I can't imagine what the parents went through.

I've used wine bottle corks in the past to stop handlebars. They do the job and reduce impact forces - a quick, easy and safe bodge. I had one on my MTB for years until i got a new set of grips.

 

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