ATV accident in Berne fatal

EAST BERNE — Daniel Ricketts, 50, was killed when, riding his all-terrain vehicle on his property on Saw Mill Road Saturday, police say, he struck a wire, cutting his neck, and was thrown from the ATV.

“He ran into a fine wire, like the wire on a guitar,” said Sheriff Craig D. Apple. The wire, he said, was strung four or five feet in the air, above the ground.

He described Ricketts’s wound this way: “He suffered a severe laceration to his throat and, unfortunately, it was fatal.”

Ricketts was growing “four very large, very thick” marijuana plants, Apple said, which investigators retrieved from his property on Saturday.

Barbed wire surrounded the plants, which were clustered together, he said, and there was a spring trap in the growing area; Apple said that these, along with the stretched wire, were meant to protect the marijuana plants.

The accident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, and Ricketts was pronounced dead at the scene by Albany County Coroner Paul Marra, according to a release from the sheriff’s office. Ricketts was driving a 1998 Honda Foreman ATV.

Ricketts’s family described him as a loving family man, and said he had four pot plants for his own use.

Apple said police received information there may be more marijuana and, on Tuesday, did a “fly by” and, looking from a helicopter, found none. “There was just an area with fresh earth,” he said, “…but we were unable to locate any more.”

Results from a toxicology report that would show drug and alcohol levels will not be available for “quite some time,” said Apple. He said such a report is “routine,” noting, “Almost every death, we take toxicology.”

Asked if there was any indication Ricketts was selling pot, Apple told The Enterprise there was “none whatsoever.”

Asked what the charge would be if four similar plants were found growing elsewhere, Apple said, depending on the weight, “It would be a misdemeanor or low-level felony.”

Apple said of the four plants, “If we had seen this from the air, we’d probably go in and pull it. We eradicate it to keep it from being sold on the streets.”

Apple went on, “We find a lot of camouflaged marijuana grow….This is only the second or third time I can recall traps….My biggest fear would be some young kid running through that on an ATV — not even a kid, an adult, anybody…You’re going from a low-level, unlawfully-grown cannabis to a potential homicide charge if you set a trap and someone gets injured. It’s really not worth it.”

He concluded, “All month, we’ll be up routinely, checking the whole county for marijuana."

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