James Edler, a 17-year-old whose family has a weekend home on Brick Kiln Road in Noyac, hopped on his Can Am ATV on August 6, planning to meet a couple of buddies on the trails a short distance south of his home.
He drove his quad up Hickory Hills Court, a road that was cut into the woods more than a decade ago but has never been developed. He cut off the road onto the trail. A short distance into the woods, he had to slow down to negotiate a sharp turn and then accelerated as he climbed the hill.
“I saw it just before it hit me,” he said of a length of parachute cord, an elastic type of rope with a polyester cover that someone had stretched across the trail.
James estimated he was moving about 20 mph when he was, quite literally, clotheslined.
He thinks he was knocked out, because at first he couldn’t see. When he came to his senses, he found his phone lying on the ground. “Siri, call Mom,” he asked it.
James’s parents, James and Tina Edler, arrived at the scene in minutes. A Southampton Town Police officer followed, as did a Sag Harbor ambulance, which carried the injured boy to Havens Beach, where he was medevaced to Stony Brook University Hospital.
“Look, we know it is illegal,” said James Edler of riding a motorized vehicle on public trails as a preamble to speaking about his son’s mishap. “But …”
Trails advocates say the motorized bikes kill and disturb wildlife, tear up vegetation, and cause erosion on the trails. They have pressured Southampton Town to more strictly enforce the ban on town and county property.
“I condone his riding,” Mr. Edler continued, opening the door to a garage crowded with quads that the family rides on its vacations. He said he understands that people get upset when kids ride on the trails, behavior he likens to the mischief teenagers cause in the village on a summer weekend.
He said it is fair play for someone to report trail riders to the police, or even follow them home and confront the riders’ parents, but not to set a trap that could maim, or even kill, someone.
James spent four days at Stony Brook University Hospital before being released Monday night. He shared a photograph of himself in his hospital bed, his entire neck red and swollen from the collision. “For the first two days, I couldn’t swallow,” he said. He also suffered a shoulder injury that has resulted in a pinched nerve that will require some physical therapy.
Mr. Edler said he knew the trail had been booby trapped when he saw that the cord was olive drab so it would blend in with the surroundings. He said police found two other traps set deeper in the woods.
Lieutenant Susan Ralph of the Southampton Police Department acknowledged that police had discovered additional booby traps. She said the case remains under investigation and that the person responsible could face a felony charge of reckless endangerment.
James, who grew up in Sag Harbor, moved to Farmingville two years ago, and will be a senior at Sachem East High School this year.
He smiled when asked if he had learned his lesson and would stay off the trails in the future or would keep on riding. “Probably,” he said, reaching for his sore shoulder. “When this is over.”