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Dirt Bikes Are Not Toys

By Tony Doris and Chelsea Todaro – Palm Beach Post
Staff Writer

The mother of a 13-year-old Wellington boy who died in a dirt bike accident last year has sued the mother of the motorcycle driver, who was the boy’s friend.

Maria Gonzalez, mother of the late Jonathan Gonzalez, filed a negligence suit Monday in circuit court against Barbara Forbes, the mother of Jonathan’s friend Benjamin Forbes, demanding damages for mental pain and suffering, as well as medical and funeral costs.

On April 23, 2017, Jonathan was riding on the back of Benjamin’s red and white 80 cc Honda next to a Wellington canal when Forbes missed a sharp turn. The bike flipped down a steep embankment at the edge of the canal, throwing the boys, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Jonathan, whose face was smashed, was declared dead at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The accident, along the C-8 canal north of Forest Hill Boulevard and west of Wellington Edge Boulevard, took place a day before Benjamin’s 14th birthday. The 2009 motorcycle had just been bought the day before.

According to Sheriff’s Office interviews with Benjamin Forbes and others, the boys were southbound along the west side of the canal, with Jonathan on the back. They didn’t see soon enough that they were coming up on another canal in front of them. Benjamin tried to stop the dirt bike but both boys were thrown.

Benjamin called 911 and stayed with his friend. In a recording of that call, Jonathan’s nose and jaw are described as badly broken. Benjamin described Jonathan as being out of the water, on the ground but appearing to be falling asleep, a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report said.

The lawsuit, filed by West Palm Beach lawyer Gary Lesser, alleged that Benjamin “lacked familiarity with the motorcycle and otherwise generally lacked the knowledge, training, skill, experience, situational awareness and maturity to safely operate such a motorcycle, especially when unsupervised.” Barbara Forbes was negligent in letting her son use the bike and that was “a direct and proximate cause” of the crash and death, it said.

The suit seeks unspecified damages of more than $15,000.

“It is important for parents to understand that a dirt bike is not a toy, it is a small motorcycle capable of causing serious harm or death,” Lesser said.

The point of the suit is not just to get compensation for the family, Lesser’s law partner, Mickey Smith, added.

“The overriding concern for the mother, Mrs. Gonzalez, is to provide education to the public,” Smith said. “This dirt bike will go 45-50 miles per hour. So a lot of people hear the term ‘dirt bike’ and think it’s more like a bicycle when in fact it is more like a motorcycle.”

Barbara Forbes could not be reached for comment.

This article was written by the Palm Beach Post staff writers.

Below is Tania Rogers story for WPTV News Channel 5.

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