Snowmobile deaths already up to 15 this season

CREATED Feb 22, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports a total of 15 deaths so far this season due to snowmobiles.

“We’d like to work together, concentrate on being as safe as possible while enjoying what’s left of our snowmobile season,” Conservation Warden and Snowmobile Safety Administrator Gary Eddy says. “Speed, alcohol and night-time operation are the three most common factors with our fatal accidents.”

According to Eddy, there were 10 snowmobile fatalities for all of the 2011-12 season. However, there was a significant lack of snow in the season.

The latest three deaths occurred in the last two days. According to Joanne Haas with the Bureau of Law Enforecment, a double-fatality, with an operator and passenger, occurred sometime overnight into early morning on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Ashland County.

The bodies were recovered from the South Channel of Lake Superior. Thursday night night, conservation wardens responded to a single fatality on an Oconto County snowmobile trail. Both cases remain under investigation.

Eddy also says that as the winter winds down and spring gets closer, the ice conditions also start changing -- adding another risk to snowmobilers.

“Ice conditions will begin to deteriorate rapidly,” he said. “Snowmobilers will need to exercise a high degree of caution if operating on late-season ice. The best choice is to stay off the ice altogether.”

In addition to avoiding late-season ice, Eddy encourages all snowmobilers to:

Ride with a safety mindset.
*Slow down.
*Ride under control.
*Practice “Zero Alcohol.” Eddy says that means refraining from drinking any alcohol until you’re home and done riding for the day.
*Take a safety course. Snowmobile safety certification is required of all operators at least age 12 and born on or after January 1, 1985.

“Snowmobiling is a great winter activity and we want people to ride safe so that they can come home to their families and ride again,” Eddy says.

To learn more about safe snowmobiling, visit DNR's website here.