Maine Snowmobilers Told to Slow Down after Flurry of Fatalities

March 7, 2008

Snowmobilers in Maine were urged this week to slow down and use caution on the state’s trails following the deaths of five riders in less than four days.

A Massachusetts man became the fifth snowmobile death since Friday night when he was killed at 9:30 a.m. Monday in a single-sled accident on a trail near the Ashland-Castle Hill town line in Aroostook County.

His death occurred half an hour before state officials held a news conference in Augusta to address snowmobile safety and enforcement. So far this winter, there have been nine snowmobile fatalities in Maine.

Of the nine deaths, six were caused by excessive speed, said Dan Martin, commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“Snowmobiles are powerful machines, some reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and Maine trails simply are not designed for these high rates of speed,” Martin said.

There are dozens of accidents and several deaths on Maine’s 13,500 miles of snowmobile trails each winter. The death count this season is the highest in several years but is lower than the record high of 16 fatalities in the winter of 2002-03.

New Hampshire has recorded two snowmobile deaths and 39 injuries this winter, New Hampshire Fish and Game Maj. Timothy Acerno said.

The flurry of five fatalities spurred Martin and other state officials to call for snowmobilers to ride defensively, sober and at reasonable speeds. Riders also were reminded to ride on the right side of trails and to stay off roadways.

In separate accidents Friday, 47-year-old Michael Morrow of Sabattus man died when he crashed into a tree in Shirley and 55-year-old Larry Doody of Caribou was killed when he hit a car after failing to stop for traffic on a road.

James Douglass, 26, of Deer Isle died about 1:30 a.m. Saturday when he struck some maple trees while riding on a lake in Brooksville. The next day 24-year-old Matthew Budrow of Bristol was killed when he hit a tree in Bremen shortly after 3 a.m.

The identity of the victim in Monday’s crash was not immediately released.

Riders need to exercise more caution in the weeks ahead as the sun gets stronger and the days get warmer, said Maj. Gregg Sanborn, the head of the Maine Warden Service.

At this time of year, snowmobilers have the added danger of more rocks and stumps showing up on trails as the snow melts away, Sanborn said. Lakes and rivers also become more dangerous as ice melts away, he said.

“The snowmobiling is great but the one thing to keep in mind is that the sun is getting stronger as spring nears,” Sanborn said.

The Warden Service is redirecting its efforts toward snowmobile safety in the final weeks of the snowmobile season.

“Snowmobilers will see more wardens on the trails in the coming weeks,” he said.

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