Toddler accidentally shot his sister in Kentucky - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Toddler accidentally shot his sister in Kentucky

Posted: Updated:
BURKESVILLE, KY (WFLA) -

As Stephanie Sparks cleaned the kitchen, her 5-year-old son, Kristian, began playing with a rifle he was given last year. She stepped out onto the front porch, poured grease out of a frying pan for the dogs and "heard the gun go off," a Kentucky coroner said.

Authorities said the boy had fatally shot his 2-year-old sister, Caroline, in the chest.

In rural southern Kentucky, far removed from the national debate over gun control, where some children get their first guns even before they start first grade, the accident stunned the community.

Kristian's rifle was kept in a corner of the mobile home, and the family didn't realize a bullet had been left in it, Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said.

"Down in Kentucky where we're from, you know, guns are passed down from generation to generation," White said. "You start at a young age with guns for hunting and everything."

What is more unusual than a child having a gun, he said, is "that a kid would get shot with it."

In this case, the rifle was made by a company that sells guns specifically for children - "My first rifle" is the slogan - in colors ranging from plain brown to hot pink to royal blue to multi-color swirls.

"It's a normal way of life, and it's not just rural Kentucky, it's rural America - hunting and shooting and sport fishing. It starts at an early age," Cumberland County Judge Executive John Phelps said. "There's probably not a household in this county that doesn't have a gun."

In Cumberland County, as elsewhere in Kentucky, local newspapers feature photos of children proudly displaying their kills, including turkey and deer. Even one of the latest reality shows on CMT, "Guntucky," features a family-owned gun range in Kentucky. The range, Knob Creek, says on its website that it is as a safe place for youngsters to learn about firearms and offers family memberships.

Ruby Wright, who teaches hunter safety classes in Burkesville, said children younger than 9 can sit in, but they can't get certification. She also coaches 4-H shooting sports, requiring those children to be 9 as well.

Phelps, who is much like a mayor in these parts, said it had been four or five years since there had been a shooting death in the county, which lies along the Cumberland River near the Tennessee state line.

"The whole town is heartbroken," Phelps said of Burkesville, a farming community of 1,800 about 90 miles northeast of Nashville, Tenn. "This was a total shock. This was totally unexpected."

Phelps said he knew the family well. He said the father, Chris Sparks, works as a logger at a mill and also shoes horses.

The family lives in a gray mobile home on a long, winding road, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland that's been in the family since the 1930s. Toys, including a small truck and a basketball goal, were on the front porch, but no one was home Wednesday.

There's a house across the street, but the next-closest neighbor lives over a hill.

Family friend Logan Wells said he received a frantic call telling him that the little girl was in an accident and to come quickly.

When he got to the hospital, Caroline was already dead. "She passed just when I got there," Wells said.

White said the shooting had been ruled accidental, though a police spokesman said it was unclear whether any charges will be filed.

"I think it's too early to say whether there will or won't be," Trooper Billy Gregory said.

White said the boy received the .22-caliber rifle as a gift, but it wasn't clear who gave him the gun, which is known as a Crickett.

"It's a little rifle for a kid. ... The little boy's used to shooting the little gun," White said.

The company that makes the rifle, Milton, Pa.-based Keystone Sporting Arms, has a "Kids Corner" on its website with pictures of young boys and girls at shooting ranges and on bird and deer hunts. It says the company produced 60,000 Crickett and Chipmunk rifles for kids in 2008. The smaller rifles are sold with a mount to use at a shooting range.

Keystone also makes guns for adults, but most of its products are geared toward children, including books, hats and bright orange vests.

"The goal of KSA is to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve," the website said.

No one at the company answered the phone Wednesday.

According to the website, company founders Bill McNeal and his son Steve McNeal decided to make guns for young shooters in the mid-1990s and opened Keystone in 1996 with just four employees, producing 4,000 rifles that year. It now employs about 70 people.

It also has a long list of testimonials from parents who talk about how grateful they are to be able to go shooting with their children. All of the guns have safety locks, and some even have ones that require a key.

Police did not release the model of the rifle Kristian had.

Sharon Rengers, a longtime child advocate at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, said making and marketing weapons specifically for children was "mind-boggling."

"It's like, oh, my God," she said, "we're having a big national debate whether we want to check somebody's background, but we're going to offer a 4-year-old a gun and expect something good from that?"

State Rep. Robert R. Damron, a Democrat and an outspoken gun rights advocate in Kentucky, said the problem is not guns, but the parents who do not teach gun safety and responsibility.

"Why single out firearms? Why not talk about all the other things that endanger children, too?" he said. "The Second Amendment doesn't give anybody carte blanche freedom to put children and juveniles at risk."

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:41 PM EDT2014-04-18 23:41:35 GMT

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.


  • Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Friday, April 18 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-04-18 22:02:51 GMT
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
  • Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Friday, April 18 2014 3:52 PM EDT2014-04-18 19:52:20 GMT
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
  • NewsMore>>

  • 4 French journalists back home after Syria ordeal

    4 French journalists back home after Syria ordeal

    Sunday, April 20 2014 4:43 AM EDT2014-04-20 08:43:55 GMT
    Four French journalists kidnapped and held for 10 months in Syria have returned home to France.
    Four French journalists kidnapped and held for 10 months in Syria returned home on Sunday to joyful families awaiting them at a military airport outside Paris.
  • Divers pull bodies from sunken ferry; toll tops 50

    Divers pull bodies from sunken ferry; toll tops 50

    Sunday, April 20 2014 3:22 AM EDT2014-04-20 07:22:24 GMT
    The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is...
    The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is just...
  • Truck flips into Keystone Road pond, one injured

    Truck flips into Keystone Road pond, one injured

    Sunday, April 20 2014 1:15 AM EDT2014-04-20 05:15:13 GMT
    A man was injuredSaturday night when he lost control ofa pickup truck and ended up in a pond on Keystone Road.Thedriver of a Ford F-150 pickuptruck was traveling west on Keystone Roadshortly after 7:30 p.m. when he lost control of the vehicle in a bend in the road, the Florida HighwayPatrol said.Thetruckspun out, went airborne and flipped twice before itcame to rest partially submerged in the pond.Pinellas County firefighters had to cut awaytheroof of the truck to freethe driver, who wasalone...
    A man was injuredSaturday night when he lost control ofa pickup truck and ended up in a pond on Keystone Road.Thedriver of a Ford F-150 pickuptruck was traveling west on Keystone Roadshortly after 7:30 p.m. when he lost control of the vehicle in a bend in the road, the Florida HighwayPatrol said.Thetruckspun out, went airborne and flipped twice before itcame to rest partially submerged in the pond.Pinellas County firefighters had to cut awaytheroof of the truck to freethe driver, who wasalone...
  • Henry County Suspicious Activity

    Henry County Suspicious Activity

    Saturday, April 19 2014 10:07 PM EDT2014-04-20 02:07:16 GMT
    Press Release from the Henry County Sheriff's OfficeThe Henry County Sheriff’s Office received a call on April 18, 2014 regarding suspicious activity. Three white males driving a white pickup truck were seen in the area of Glen Court in the Ridgeway area of Henry County. The individuals walked to the back of a residence but a neighbor yelled at them and they left. Entry into the home was not gained. On April 19, 2014, three white males were seen on Andra Drive, also in Ridgeway. A male subjec...
    Press Release from the Henry County Sheriff's OfficeThe Henry County Sheriff’s Office received a call on April 18, 2014 regarding suspicious activity. Three white males driving a white pickup truck were seen in the area of Glen Court in the Ridgeway area of Henry County. The individuals walked to the back of a residence but a neighbor yelled at them and they left. Entry into the home was not gained. On April 19, 2014, three white males were seen on Andra Drive, also in Ridgeway. A male subjec...
  • 3 Blacksburg companies raise major capital

    3 Blacksburg companies raise major capital

    Thursday, April 17 2014 2:29 PM EDT2014-04-17 18:29:23 GMT
    Three Blacksburg companies have raised major capital recently.
    Three Blacksburg companies have raised major capital recently.
  • Bedford Co. Sheriff's Office investigates burglary at country club

    Bedford Co. Sheriff's Office investigates burglary at country club

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 12:16 PM EDT2014-04-16 16:16:02 GMT
    Investigators with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office are investigating a burglary of the Boonsboro Country Club.
    Investigators with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office are investigating a burglary of the Boonsboro Country Club.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.