A 29-year-old Michigan woman is in critical condition after losing control of the Yamaha Rhino she was driving. Authorities in Wright Township, Michigan, said that Melissa VanBeveren’s Rhino rolled down a ravine and struck a large tree. The passenger, 47-year-old Al Dietrich, was able to jump out of the vehicle before it hit the tree and suffered only minor bruises and scrapes.
Van Beveren, a resident of Holland, Mich., was thrown from the vehicle when the Rhino struck the tree. According to a report in the Grand Haven Tribune, Dietrich called some residents of a nearby house, who rushed to the scene before calling 911. Emergency responders had trouble spotting the scene of the accident at first because it was located nearly a mile off the main road in an apple orchard.
The emergency workers transported van Beveren to a landing zone and then airlifted her to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. On June 26, the morning following the accident, doctors said van Beveren was in critical condition with multiple, unspecified injuries.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the crash.
Yamaha Motor Corporation vigorously defends the safety of its Rhino UTVs, which have become the subject of numerous lawsuits involving Rhino drivers and passengers who are seriously injured or killed. The manufacturer announced a repair program on March 31 and suspended all Rhino sales until the vehicles were equipped with a series of safety upgrades. Although Yamaha says that the repair program is not a recall, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urged Rhino owners to avoid using their UTVs until the upgrades could be made.
Approximately 120,000 Yamaha Rhinos have been sold in the U.S. since they debuted here in fall 2003. Many Rhino enthusiasts say the vehicles are perfectly safe to drive and accidents are strictly the driver’s fault. However, critics of the UTV say that the vehicles’ numerous design flaws, such as narrow track width, narrow wheels, and high center of gravity, make them highly unstable and more prone to roll over than other all terrain vehicles.