Changes coming to Stony Lonesome after fatal wreck; father makes emotional plea


Members of the Cullman County Commission at Tuesday's meeting, where Stony Lonesome OHV Park was the main topic of discussion / Nick Griffin

CULLMAN – The Cullman County Commission approved several rule changes for Stony Lonesome OHV Park Tuesday morning in response to a fatal wreck at the park on Saturday that claimed the life of 21-year-old Hannah Bates.

Cullman County Parks and Recreation Director Doug Davenport was at the meeting Tuesday to outline the new rules at the park, including: no coolers on the trails, required safety harnesses and seat belts and a stricter wristband policy.

“We’d like to revise the first section of our rules at Stony Lonesome. We’ve always had it where we check the armbands to make sure they had signed the waiver, we’d like to implement a stop and go where a patron comes into the park and before they go on the trail we actually stop and check to make sure they have their armband, they have their seatbelts on and that there’s no cooler. We’re not going to allow any coolers in the woods at all on any type of machine,” Davenport said. “This will be the first step of some things that we’d like to come forward with and make recommendations, so no one ever gets hurt again in our park if we can prevent that."

Davenport also offered his condolences to the Bates family.

“I know some of Ms. Bates’s family is here; I ask y’all to continue to pray for them and for our staff as well because this is not like somebody coming up to buy a car tag one time and you see them once a year; our employees see these patrons sometimes every week or a couple times a month so they’re like family to each other.”

Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker gave his condolences to the Bates family members in attendance as well and tried to reassure them that steps are being taken to make the park safer.

“I just want to let everyone know that our condolences go out to the Bates family and we are doing and have done everything we can to make that a safe place for a family event. We hate it and I’m sorry, our prayers go out to you and your family and if there’s anything we can do please let us know,” Walker said.

Bates’s father, Lionel Bates, was at the meeting and spoke from his seat directly to the commissioners. It was an emotional plea. Lionel Bates said he believes alcohol consumption in the park is the biggest problem.

“There’s plenty, there’s a whole lot of safety issues at this place. I can make you a long list if you need somebody to help you. If you want to go look yourself, there are a lot of safety issues there and alcohol is the worst one. Alcohol, apparently, is approved there, the staff drinks with them, the man who ran off the cliff couldn’t even stand up, but he was uninjured. Who monitors this?” Bates said.

He questioned the emergency response and medical capacities of the park.  

“How long did it take anybody to get there, rapid responders, what kind of safety equipment is in place? What kind of medical staff is in place? It happens frequently. How long did my daughter lay under this RZR? Hours? Could she get a breath?” he asked, visibly shaken. “Don’t let this happen to nobody else.”

He continued, “I’m not a stupid person, I understand a little about engineering myself and it’s terrible what’s been allowed to go on down there and I’m sorry for the other families that have lost their children, but if you could wear these shoes, you’d have a whole lot different understanding. I know you guys are the ones who can put it in place and get it done. We need help.”

Hannah Bates’s death was the third at Stony Lonesome in less than a year. Back on April 22, 2017, Lawrence Richey, 34, of Smiths Grove, Kentucky and Erin Duncan, 22, of Elkins, Arkansas were killed when an ATV crashed into a crowd of spectators. The families of those victims have filed suit against the Cullman County Commission, all three commissioners, Stony Lonesome, Davenport, Midwest Motorsports and the driver of the ATV.  See the court document below.

Stony Lonesome Lawsuit by cullmansense on Scribd

Audio from today's meeting:

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