2017-03-15 / Front Page

Wardens to snowmobilers: slow down, ride responsibly

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

WESTERN MAINE — Two recent snowmobile crashes have raised the number of snowmobile related deaths this year to nine and Maine Game Wardens are urging riders to be cautious, alert and responsible while on the trails.

Friday, March 3, Thomas Henderson, 28, of Dixfield died from injuries sustained in a crash in Carthage. According to a Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife press release, evidence indicated Henderson was traveling at a high rate of speed when he missed a turn on the groomed trail and collided with several large trees. A passenger jumped from the snowmobile prior to the crash. Speed, alcohol and operator inexperience appear to be factors in the crash. Henderson was not wearing a helmet.

Karen L. Pillman, 45, of Wilmington, Mass. died Saturday, March 4 in Parlin Pond Township after her snowmobile drifted to the left side of a groomed trail and collided with several trees. Game wardens say speed is likely a contributing factor and that Pillman was wearing a helmet.

Several other non-life threatening snowmobile crashes have also taken place due in part to deteriorating trail conditions, the press release said. The melting snowpack has created ice, exposed rocks, stumps and other hazards on the trails. Brooks and streams have also washed out trails in some areas. Snowmobilers must remain alert and operate at speeds that will provide plenty of time to stop to avoid hazards.

Since 2010 wardens have responded to an average of 210 incidents involving snowmobiles each year, according to information provided by Corporal John MacDonald, Maine Warden Service Public Relations & Information. There have been 42 snowmobiling fatalities so far this decade. Ten deaths were recorded in 2012; the year four snowmobilers were lost in Rangeley Lake Dec. 30.

Game wardens are urging snowmobilers to slow down and ride responsibly. With snow scarce across the remainder of New England, trails in Maine remain busy, especially in western and northern portions of the state. The press release noted some of this year’s fatal and serious injury crashes have involved both excessive speed and alcohol and could have been avoided. Game wardens continue to patrol Maine trials and stop those who are operating recklessly and endangering others. Serious penalties and jail time can result from reckless and imprudent operation on Maine trails.

Be sure to check with local clubs regarding trail conditions and closures. Be especially wary of crossing bodies of water and heed club closures. A minimum of six inches of new, clear ice is needed to support a snowmobile and rider. Do not attempt to ride snowmobiles on the lakes unless absolutely sure that the ice conditions will support you and your equipment.

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