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Dirt bike driver questioned on fatal crash

A 40-year-old man was questioned by State and Plymouth police detectives Monday after the dirt bike he was riding struck and killed a 14-year-old boy riding an all-terrain vehicle a day earlier in a wooded area off Darby Station Road in ­Plymouth, officials said.

The man’s name was not ­released, Plymouth Police Chief Michael E. Botieri said, adding that witnesses were also interviewed by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, State ­Police, and detectives from the Plymouth district attorney’s ­office.

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The boy, James Ward, died of his injuries, Botieri said. The boy’s father was present when the accident happened, Botieri said.

The man fled the scene after the crash, Reggie Zimmerman, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said Sunday. Officials declined to detail how the man was found, citing the active investigation.

The crash took place about 2 p.m. Sunday. No charges have been filed.

The area where the accident happened is isolated and on private property, a common tableau across Plymouth’s 134 square miles and a source of concern.

“A lot of times, we have volunteers from our open space group, and they find areas that you can tell are very well traveled” as evidenced by the off-road vehicle tracks, said Town Manager Melissa Arrighi. “A lot of times, these are areas that are so isolated and hard to get to that it would be difficult to get emergency responders out there.”

The problem is so prevalent that town officials recently created a department to investigate activity prohibited in some open space areas, including off-road vehicle operation, illegal hunting, and dumping, Arrighi said.

Students, teachers, and staff at Plymouth North High School, where Ward was a freshman, observed a moment of silence before classes Monday, and donned green in his honor, said principal Kathleen E. McSweeney. “In a school community, you work hard in creating a culture of security and safety and watching out for one another.

“It’s tough when you go through these things,” she said. “He was just a kid who made the right choices, did well academically, made those around him better, had a good sense of humor. just a kid you want as part of your school community.”

Ward’s friends have taken to Twitter and Facebook to reflect on his passing and to share memories about the lifelong Plymouth public school student. A memorial dirt-bike ride, with proceeds going to Ward’s family, was being organized by supporters on Ward’s memorial Facebook site. His friend Indigo CaraDonna said Ward had an “amazing outlook on life” and loved dirt biking and all-terrain vehicle riding.

Grief counseling was made available to students and staff Monday, said School Superintendent Gary E. Maestas.

Sunday’s fatal collision occurred six years after the death of 8-year-old Sean Kearney, a Plymouth boy who lost his life in an ATV accident at a friend’s house. His death spurred his parents to successfully push legislation, known as Sean’s Law, that banned anyone under 14 from riding ATVs unless there is a sanctioned event or other exemption, and toughened penalties against adults who allow children to ride such vehicles. The law, considered one of the toughest in the country, passed in 2010.

Massachusetts is among the few states with mandatory recreation vehicle education require­ments for anyone under 18, said Environmental Police Captain Merri A. Walker. Since the law went into effect, off-highway vehicle registrations have declined, as have accidents, he said. Off-highway ­vehicles include all recreational motor vehicles used on terrain, such as dirt bikes and ATVs.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.

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