Mother on crusade to remove dangerous deer stands

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Associated Press

Posted on October 23, 2013 at 8:05 AM

MCCOMB, Miss. (AP) — Tim Hinton was a seasoned hunter and woodsman, and his mother says there was no reason for him to die like he did.

The 30-year-old Hinton was up a tree in a deer stand last November when the strap apparently broke and he fell.

His mother, Marsha Hinton of Laurel, later learned that the manufacturer of his stand had undergone recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

While Tim's stand was not among the recalled items, she learned that other recalled products are still on the market.

"When I realized they were selling these tree stands that had been recalled, I decided I would do whatever I could to keep a wife or mother from standing over a casket," Marsha Hinton said.

Marsha Hinton is a longtime paralegal for Abernathy Law Office of Laurel. Attorney Larry Abernathy, a McComb native, was in town with her to visit his friend and colleague Alfred Felder.

"I want to get these stands off the market," she said.

Tim Hinton was an outdoorsman to the core.

"Tim started going up to the deer camp with his daddy when he was in diapers," Marsha Hinton said. "He went into the woods hunting all his life."

Tim, who stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 250 pounds, played football for Laurel High School. Then he went into forestry.

"Not only was Tim the service forester for Jasper County, he went out west when wildfires were raging to help with the firefighting," his mother said.

"In order to qualify for this, he had to put a 45-pound backpack on and run four miles in 45 minutes. I guess you could say he was bad to the bone. As much as it scared me, I was very proud of him when he decided to help with the fires out west."

On Oct. 6, 2012, Marsha Hinton took her son his lunch, and later he went deer hunting from his C&S Global Imports "Hunter's Elite" hanging stand.

"He called and said, 'I need you to come get me and call an ambulance,'" Marsha Hinton said. "I said, 'Baby, what's wrong?' He said, 'I fell out of a tree.'"

She called an ambulance with another phone while continuing to talk to Tim.

"When the first responders got there, Tim was sitting up talking to me on the phone or they'd have never found him," Marsha Hinton said.

She got to the scene before the ambulance did. Emergency medical workers loaded Tim on a gurney, took him to a field and airlifted him to Hattiesburg.

He sustained broken ribs, punctured lungs and developed acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"They had to give him so much medicine that I never got to talk to him again," Marsha Hinton said. "He spent six weeks in critical care, and then November the 18th I lost my baby."

When her insurance company asked for an accident report, Marsha Hinton didn't think there was one. Then she learned a wildlife officer had filled one out and filed it at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks office.

"That's when we found out the strap had broken," she said. "I know that Tim had a harness on because I watched them take it off at the tree."

She later got on the Internet to find out if there had been any other problems with Hunter's View products. She discovered that the CPSC had recalled Hunter's View safety harnesses in 2005 and 2007.

She also learned that Hunter's View had been sued multiple times before going bankrupt.

"The stand that Tim had said that it was manufactured by C&S (Global Imports) but has the Hunter's View trademark," Marsha Hinton said.

One day Abernathy's colleague, Leslie Roussell, wondered aloud if the safety belts from recalled stands were being recycled.

"That just made me sick to my stomach," Marsha Hinton said. "I can't prove that they're being recycled. I think that's happening."

While Tim's harness had not been recalled, Marsha Hinton discovered other products that had been were still on the market, including Summit Stoop, Ledge and Perch tree stands and Muddy Outdoors Climbing Sticks.

"I started buying them to see what was really happening, and sure enough it was," she said.

Abernathy Law Office wrote letters to the stores asking them to remove the recalled items. Nothing happened.

In September, Marsha Hinton filed a lawsuit in Jones County Circuit Court seeking an injunction against Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., Bass Pro, Amazon.com, Sportsmans Supply, eBay, Rogers Sporting Goods doing business as Huntfish Pro and VMInnovations Inc.

Amazon.com, took the recalled items off the market, and Marsha Hinton is hoping the other companies will follow suit.

She also filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit this month against the maker of her son's tree stand.

The lawsuits give only one side of the legal argument.

Alfred Felder said Marsha Hinton is seeking an injunction against the marketers of recalled products "so that no one else in this country or anywhere else could get hurt like her son did when his tree stand failed. This isn't a lawsuit for money damages."

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Hunters can go to the website http://www.cpsc.gov, click on "recalls" and type in the name of the manufacturer of their stand in the search box and it will take them directly to any recalls.

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Information from: Enterprise-Journal, http://www.enterprise-journal.com

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