Paul “P J” Taylor jumped on the two-seat all-terrain vehicle of a friend and headed out on a path near Revloc on June 1.
He was doing something thousands of riders in the region will do this summer, something law enforcement and conservation officials wish they could stop.
Taylor, 23, of Mineral Point, a well-liked Central Cambria High School graduate, was celebrating the 40th birthday of a friend in Cambria Township when an acquaintance, Brianna Rose Fox, wanted to go for a ride on a Polaris Razor ATV brought to the party by another friend.
This seemingly innocuous act ended Taylor’s life and resulted in a harrowing night for Fox.
Some have termed what happened that night as the perfect – or maybe not-so–perfect – storm of events.
“The situation was ripe for disaster,” Cambria County Chief Deputy Coroner Jeffrey Lees said.
Taylor and Fox were riding the ATV on an old railroad line.
Unused for decades, with the steel rails removed, the trail sits idle as the property of the Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority as the group looks for money to transform it into a recreation trail for nonmotorized use.
Rose was wearing the safety harness on the passenger side of the two-seater, but no helmet.
Taylor, a coal miner for Amfire Mining LLC, was not wearing a helmet nor was he wearing the driver’s side safety harness.
An experienced ATV rider, Taylor had sold his quad more than a year ago.
On the night that he died, his blood-alcohol level was 0.8 percent, according to information provided by Lees, which is right at the limit to operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania.
Over the edge
The Pennsylvania State Police report says Taylor was driving along the railway, once used by the now defunct Cambria and Indiana Railroad, when things went bad.
The undeveloped trail, which includes a worn and rotted wooden bridge, was probably known to the driver, but not very well, according to his father, Paul Taylor, of Swigle Mountain.
“He probably rode it before, but it probably had been a while,” the father said.
There were plenty of indications that the closed trail had been used by more then PJ Taylor and his passenger. Someone had even placed a tin strip about 3 feet in diameter across a rotted section of the bridge, Lees said.
It is believed that the tin buckled when the ATV crossed it, causing the vehicle to tip on its side then over and into the stream bed, Lees said.
“The ATV fell 14 feet into Williams Creek, where the water was 2 to 3 feet high,” Lees said.
Without a safety harness, Taylor had little chance of surviving the accident.
“Upon impact, Taylor was thrown under the vehicle,” Lees said.
Taylor sustained massive head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by Lees, while Fox was taken to Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown with what was described as moderate injuries.