A 38-year-old Massachusetts man was seriously injured while taking his snowmobile out for what his friends called a final spin before loading it onto a trailer to head home.
The Hopedale man was with friends at a camp on Sawyer Road in Greene when he decided to take another ride at approximately 10:30 a.m. Monday on Maine’s Sabattus Lake.
Two of his friends told the Maine Warden Service that he was going up the lake at approximately 60-70 miles per hour when they saw a large cloud of snow and heard the machine stop about 200 yards off shore, according to MWS Game Warden Rick Stone.
“The conditions on the lake aren’t very good for snowmobiling due to the slushy ice and snow,” said Warden Stone. “It appears that the snowmobile’s front end had broken through the slush causing it to flip end over end.”
The snowmobile, a 2006 Yamaha, went airborne for approximately 30-35 feet before coming to rest upright on top of his waist and legs. When his friends arrived at the scene, he was not moving or talking, but eventually was able to communicate with them.
Greene Fire and Rescue, United Ambulance and an Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputy responded to the scene. The man was transported to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, before being transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland.
He suffered a large gash to his head, a fractured skull, a fractured left eye socket, and broken vertebrae in his back and neck.
He was not wearing a helmet. Speed was a factor in the incident.
Another man, of Dixmont suffered head, chest and other injuries when he went off a trail and hit a tree on Monday night while snowmobiling with three friends.
He was the third snowmobiler in a group of four riding a trail near Mitchell and Troy Center roads in Dixmont. The first two sleds were able to make a turn, according to MWS Sgt. Alan Gillis, but he was not. He tried to correct his sled, but was sent airborne, getting snagged in a tree for a brief time before falling to the ground.
He was wearing a helmet, but it was knocked off by the impact of the crash.
The man was transported by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. LifeFlight was called to the scene, and its crew helped him in an ambulance. He was not transported by helicopter due to icy weather conditions.
You might be asking why I would put something from Northern Maine in my article. The answer is simple: it can happen here too. Snowmobiles are getting a big workout this year with conditions the best in years. Riders are getting their money’s worth out of machines left idle for a number of years due to poor snow conditions.
Snowmobiliers do not have to travel far at all to find trails that are wild or groomed. Around these parts, state lands are abundant with miles of fire roads to travel on. Some of these parks can have up to 15 miles of fire roads, which can give many riders plenty of time for them to have a good time. Others seek longer distances and will head for trails that will take them from Ashby all the way to Keene, N.H., with most of these trails groomed.
Another place you will find snow machines is on the larger lakes and ponds. Ice conditions on these bodies is less than great, but the snow conditions on top of the ice make things very attractive.
The next problem is speed. Even though the Environmental Police set speed traps up on the trails, people travel at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. They do this especially on railroad beds, where they are pretty sure no tree limbs will be down, but often fail to negotiate a turn at such a high speed and lose control and fly off into the wind and die.
The last big issue I see and there may be more, is the lack of proper protective outerware. Gloves are essential, and I am talking the thick expensive ones not the $2 pair you buy at Walmart. The helmet is the thing that saves most lives and buying cheap is not something you want to do. Get the best you can afford and have someone in the know fit you for it. Don’t go on your sled or anyone else’s sled without wearing one.
Officials from every state send me information on accidents regarding snowmobiles. I am sorry to say I get about five per week and many of them are about people who are now dead.
Last week I got one from New Hampshire about a guy who went over a rise at 90 miles per hour and hit a broken-down grooming sled, and the driver was killed instantly. The owner of the groomer was not even there, but had left all the proper markings for a breakdown. But speed killed this person.
Common sense riding is what is needed. Leave the booze home until the riding is over. Keep the speeds down. Wear the protection afforded you and come back so you can read another article I write next week. Without you I have no audience, which means I have no job. Drive smart.
Bill Biswanger is an outdoorsman and columnist. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org