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Teens hurt after stealing, crashing 4-wheeler

16-year-old in critical condition

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – A Clay County teenager is in critical condition and another hospitalized after investigators said they stole a four-wheeler and crashed it Friday night.

Detectives are not releasing their names because the two are in the hospital and have not been arrested.

Michele Howard, who owns the four-wheeler, said the teenagers went on a two-and-a-half-hour joyride around Middleburg, eluding deputies by going down horse trails. They eventually crashed going full-speed into a fence.

"It's a tragedy what happened," Howard said. "Unfortunately, this just goes to show you what doing stupid stuff does when you're young."

Investigators said the two teens, ages 16 and 18, stole Howard's four-wheeler out of her red barn on Currant Avenue.

Investigators say they pushed the $8,000 bike to the end of the driveway and started it. Howard's dogs barking woke up her daughter, who heard the ATV engine.

"We looked in the shed, bike's gone, four-wheeler's gone," Howard said. "So we called the cops. They went out looking for them. They could see their dust trail because it's all dirt roads."

Howard said deputies chased the teenagers around Middleburg for more than two hours, and just a couple miles from Howard's house, on Foxtail Avenue, they rode full-speed around a curve, lost control and crashed into a fence.

Howard said the racing vehicle that can go 75 mph hit a pole, which caused it to flip. The teens both flew off, and Howard said the 16-year-old went face-first into another pole. Both were unresponsive.

"Now they're in the hospital," Howard said. "Don't know whether they're going to live or not, all because they decided basically that they wanted to steal a bike, steal a four-wheeler."

Howard said she had given the 16-year-old permission to ride it several times in the past.

"As a matter of fact, we let the kid who stole it ride the bike," Howard said. "He had just been over a couple days before riding the bike, so there was no reason for it.

"I would have never expected this from him. This is the last thing in the world I would have expected."

The consequences are going to affect everyone involved for a long time.

"I know this is going to be extremely hard on his family, and I feel for them," Howard said. "I think I feel most for his family because they're going to end up going through a lot because of this."

The four-wheeler wasn't even a year old. It's totaled and the owners didn't have insurance on it.

The 16-year-old is in critical condition at UF Health Jacksonville. The 18-year-old is hospitalized at Orange Park Medical Center.