Peter Lenz Dead at the Age of 13: When Will Parents Be Held Responsible?

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst ISeptember 15, 2010

Death is one of life’s biggest mysteries, and throughout the years, motorsports extremists have challenged its law of averages by pushing the limits each time they travel at speeds that are not for the faint of heart.

Death does not discriminate against age or gender, nor does it have any deep feelings who will be hurt once it strikes.

One thing is for sure and that is once death decides to strike, in its wake there are always lingering questions with very few answers.

It’s been over two weeks since the grim reaper took the life of 13-year–old Peter Lenz of Vancouver, Washington after he fell off his bike and was run over by another motorcycle, driven by 12-year-old Xavier Zayat of Flushing, New York.

Medical workers immediately placed Lenz in a neck brace, put him on a stretcher and began chest compressions while taking him to a hospital.

Unfortunately, Lenz was pronounced dead several hours later, while Zayat was uninjured and went home after the accident.

Just as expected, the governing body as well as the sport's advocates began to defend the development system as questions were being raised about whether riders, who aren’t old enough to obtain a driver’s license should be racing vehicles that can top 120 mph.

Whether it’s inside a car or riding a motorcycle, there will always be those who will say the sport isn’t any more dangerous than playing football or any other contact sport.

Shoya Tomizawa became the second teenage rider to die in the sport when the 19-year-old fell and was hit by two trailing riders during the Moto2 race.

Tomizawa’s crash was similar to the accident that claimed the life of Peter Lenz.

There have been 46 recorded deaths in MotoGP since the series was founded in 1949. Now try comparing those numbers to how many teenagers have been killed while playing high school sports.

The majority of deaths among high school athletes is heat-related, and has nothing to do with physical contact, unlike climbing on a motorcycle with only a chest protector, helmet, and a leather racing suit.

Going back to the accident that claimed the life of Lenz, even the much older MotoGP riders found the track hard to navigate over the weekend.

Reigning world champ Valentino Rossi fell four times on a track that was bumpy and slick, along with 90-plus temperatures pounding down on riders throughout the day.

Sunday's Moto2 race was shortened after a big wreck on the first lap took out four drivers; yet children, not teenagers, but children were allowed to race at speeds which reached 120 plus mph down the straightaways.

The Indy course in which Lenz was running on the day of the tragedy is 2.621 miles in length, with 16 turns while running an average speed of 92 mph.

The USGPRU called Indy an entry-level track when in fact it is classified as an advanced-placement track, which brings up the question, “Why would any parent or organization allow children to participate on a track with the size and complexity of Indianapolis Motor Speedway?"

To even think he had full adult comprehension of what he was getting himself into is ridiculous, and it doesn’t matter how long he’d been riding or how many trophies he’d won.

Just last year Lenz slammed into a tire wall—a barrier of three separate double-row stretches of old tires.

No impact-absorbing soft barriers (such as Airfence inflatable modules) or hay bales were placed in front of the tire barriers.

Lenz’ bike thrust through the first tire barrier and landed in the second one, and Lenz himself landed atop the final tire barrier against a cyclone fence.

Safety crews had to cut away part of the fencing to remove Lenz, who suffered a broken tibia and fibula just above the boot line; a broken femur where, doctors suggested, he hit the handlebar when he was launched from the bike.

Lenz also suffered a broken upper arm just above the elbow armor, along with severing a nerve on the same arm which doctors re-attached.

The cause of the accident, as 12-year-old Lenz said while intubated, was that “No one pumped my brakes.”

His father Michael went on to say, “We’re not 100 percent sure what it was, more than likely either the brakes weren’t pumped or we had a master cylinder failure that was catastrophic.”

After the younger Lenz made his statement, how convenient was it that he no longer spoke to the media, instead letting his dad Michael do all the talking?

Why wasn’t his mom asked any questions about how her son was doing, and why wasn’t she allowed to speak to the media?

Would a 12-year-old kid who is in extreme pain and breathing through a tube actually be thinking along these lines, “Right now, he’s more pissed off about his championship in the USGPRU than he is about his physical state?”

Michael also went on to say that, “Peter’s bikes are very old, he’s riding 1996s, and we’ve had perpetual issues with the bikes because parts are fatiguing.”

“On Sunday morning, we had a cylinder detonate, and not in a normal place,” said Michael from inside the hospital where his son was lying in extreme pain.

The USGPRU supposedly prides itself on how safe and organized the series is, but after reading this quote from Michael Lenz, it's no wonder they are doing all they can to keep his death out of the media.

“After it happened (the accident in 2009), we actually saw some people pulling out chest protectors and putting them on,” said Michael as his son was being loaded into an ambulance.

Why would parents allow their children to race in a series without wearing the proper safety gear?

The only answer could be is they are putting all their trust in the governing body to keep their children safe.

If that is the case, why would the USGPRU allow children out on the track unless they are fully protected?

The responsibility also lies on the parents who could have inquired about what safety measures are taken, since the job of a parent is to speak up and make decisions on behalf of their children.

When you think about it, it’s the parents who basically sign the kids’ life away when they put their signatures on the dotted line, while allowing their quest for money and fame to come in the way of the organizations who are only in business to make a profit.

Back in 2002, NASCAR raised the age limit to 18 years of age for any driver wanting to compete in any of the three premier touring series in which speeds reach in excess of 150 mph.

NASCAR has gone through great lengths to make sure any kid who wants to compete is not being pushed into a car that is more than they can handle, and Toyota Speedway of Irwindale does not allow anyone under the age of 15 years old to race on the much bigger and faster half-mile track.

The Bandolero series is designed for kids ages 8-14 years of age, hoping to someday become the next big NASCAR superstar, who race on the much smaller third-mile track.

The cars they race in have full fiberglass bodies, along with steel roll cages and they race at an average speed of about 60 mph, which is a lot slower than the 90 mph plus the same age group is allowed to run at in the USGPRU.

Each driver is required to wear a Head and Neck Restraint System, along with a fire-proof racing suit, which also includes a head sock, fire-proof gloves, racing shoes, and a helmet that are all approved by NASCAR’s safety team.

The Bando’s as they are called for short, still put on a very good show without having the extra danger of traveling at speeds which are twice the legal limit on most of our city streets.

YouTube had Peter Lenz’s accident posted on their website for a little over a day, and it has since been taken down because of copyright laws.

Would it have been asking too much for the website to put a message stating something along the lines of, it was taken down out of respect for those whose loved one was killed?

Michael Lenz also posted this message on his son’s Facebook page, which really makes one think about exactly how much emphasis he placed on his son’s desire over his own parental responsibility?

"We are deeply saddened by the loss but know that Peter is racing even faster in the sky. He passed doing what he loved and had his go-fast face on as he pulled onto the track…#45 is on another road we can only hope to reach."

What about the 12-year-old Zayat who ran over and killed his fellow competitor, and why haven’t we heard anything more from him or his parents?

Can you imagine what this kid will go through the rest of his life, knowing that he was the reason another boy his age never got the chance to grow up?

Since when did society allow parents to loan their kids to these money-hungry organizations, all for the sake of putting their lives on the line for nothing more than fame and fortune, and yet nothing legally can be done when one dies?

Keeping in mind this tragic accident happened a little over three weeks ago, the reason for the late posting was to gather more facts about the series, and to take a deeper look into how kids today are being exploited by their own parents.

Not all competitive organizations fall into this category, but as parents we need to be aware they are out there and it's up to each of us to look beyond the surface before putting our child's well-being ahead of fame of fortune.


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