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Family files lawsuit in death of teen at bull riding event
Civil lawsuit was filed in Santa Fe District Court in March
FARMINGTON — A lawsuit has been filed against organizers of and individuals associated with an October 2016 junior bull riding event in Fruitland at which a 15-year-old boy died from injuries sustained after a bull landed on him.
The complaint filed in Santa Fe District Court on March 19 alleges individuals and organizations associated with a Navajo Nation Jr. Bull Riding Association competition on Oct. 1, 2016, in Fruitland were negligent in the death of Brandon Charley.
The plaintiffs include Joleen Youngers, a representative of Brandon's estate, along with his mother, Brenda Charley, and two siblings.
The defendants in the lawsuit are Reggie and Christine Begay, the owners of the property in Fruitland; TJ Begay, who owns the bull WhooWee, which landed on Brandon; the Navajo Nation Jr. Bull Riders Association, and its CEOs Frederick and Edith Snyder; and the National Junior Bull Riders Association, and its directors Paul and Connie Mendell.
The Navajo Nation Jr. Bull Riders Association and its CEOs, and the National Junior Bull Riders Association and its directors did not respond to requests for comment.
Attempts by The Daily Times to contact Reggie and Christine Begay and TJ Begay were unsuccessful.
The lawsuit seeks an award of an unknown amount of money for compensatory and punitive damages.
The complaint centers on what allegedly took place when Brandon entered a Navajo Nation Jr. Bull Riders Association bull riding competition held on the private property of Reggie and Christine Begay in Fruitland on Oct. 1, 2016.
The event allegedly was sanctioned as a National Junior Bull Riders Association and Navajo Nation Jr. Bull Riders Association event.
A flier on the Navajo Nation Jr. Bull Riders Association's Facebook page said Ricardo's Bull Riding Challenge would be held on Oct. 1, 2016, at Ricardo's Arena with an event address listed on County Road 6686 in Fruitland.
Brandon entered the junior division and drew the bull WhooWee to ride. The complaint alleges the bull was sanctioned for senior bull riding events, then resanctioned for junior bull riding events.
The bull and Brandon spent an extensive amount of time in the chute, and the bull resisted attempts to turn its head toward the opening of the chute multiple times, the complaint alleges.
The bull bucked as soon as the gate opened as Brandon exited the chute. Brandon then began falling off the bull on the second jump, according to the document.
The teen allegedly became hung up on the bull, and then the animal fell on his fourth jump, landing on Brandon. The complaint states there was no ambulance at the scene, and no emergency medical technicians to take care of Brandon and other participants.
When an ambulance arrived, it had to wait for people to move their vehicles to gain access to Brandon.
It took about 30 minutes to transport the boy, who was pronounced dead at 4:49 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2016.
The complaint maintains Reggie and Christine Begay owed a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe, and that TJ Begay and the bull riding association knew the bull had been sanctioned for senior bull riding events.
The complaint also alleges that Brandon and the bull were let out of the chute before they were properly situated, and that organizers failed to have emergency medical technicians on site.
Additionally, the complaint alleges the bull riding associations should have known placing a bull sanctioned for senior bull riding events with junior bull riders placed them at a higher risk for injury, including death.
Summons were issued to all the defendants except TJ Begay, according to court records.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.