Morning Read: A deadly snowmobile winter

There has already been a steady drumbeat of snowmobile fatalities this winter, and in this morning’s Watertown Daily Times, Steve Virkler gives a synopsis of the picture in Lewis County.

With the fourth snowmobile-related fatality of the winter Monday afternoon, Lewis County is in the midst of its deadliest season on record, and officials are urging caution in hopes of avoiding further tragedies.

“Be cautious,” Lewis County Sheriff L. Michael Tabolt said. “Watch your speed. Wear a helmet. Watch for your surroundings. And use common sense, too.”

Meanwhile, the Utica Observer-Dispatch is reporting that a total of seven people have died on sleds in their area, which includes Lewis County.

A Rochester-area teen became the seventh person in the region to be killed in a snowmobile accident this year.

Daniel DeSanctis, 16, of Webster, was operating a snowmobile on the Osceola-Michigan Mills trail at about 2:45 p.m. Monday when he lost control of his sled and veered off the trail, according to Lewis County sheriff’s deputies.

And just last weekend, a Malta man named Boris Alvarez died in a crash in Washington County.

Police reported that speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, but the investigation into the crash and a toxicology report are pending. An autopsy performed at Glens Falls Hospital determined that Alvarez died of internal injuries to his chest and abdomen.

So what do you think?  Is this the unavoidable side-effect of a popular outdoor sport?  Evidence of unsafe equipment and riding practices?  Bluntly, it seems to me that so many bodies warrant some tough questions.

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7 Comments on “Morning Read: A deadly snowmobile winter”

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  1. tootightmike says:

    It’s a speed and power related sport. Please don’t expect to make it safe. I personally have almost never hurt myself on snowshoes…almost. When the space shuttle burned up, we nearly halted the space program entirely,”because it might be dangerous”.DUH! They’re Astronauts!
    If you want to be completely safe, you’ll have to hide away indoors and wait out your life, only to die someday anyway. Everything comes with a certain level of risk. and we are free to choose ours.

  2. tourpro says:

    Didn’t we already agree that we are at an “acceptable level” of death?

  3. phahn50 says:

    As long as they are only killing themselves and not endangering others…. I suppose the other issues would be how much they are adding to the health care costs (alternatively this could be a good source of organ donors), and whether there is a liability problem.

  4. tootightmiike is right. You can get hurt doing almost anything if you aren’t careful. OTOH at least snowshoers are getting more fit and making themselves healthier instead of uselessly burning gas and polluting the air.

  5. newt says:

    I wonder if there a more fatalities each region from autos, or sleds. I bet it’s close.

    One thing that would help would be to mandate on all snowmobiles those ignition systems that make you take a little drunk test before they will turn on. But, as phahn50 says, as long as they’re only killing themselves ….. Too bad for the surviving family members, though. I think I could name about five families that I know of, myself. Bad way to lose a father, brother, or child.

  6. Pete Klein says:

    Make snowmobiling safe and you will make it as boring as NACAR has become.
    Watching NASCAR, which I have ceased doing, is about as exciting as watching a Merrygoround go round and round.
    That said, don’t drink and drive, and don’t speed.

  7. John Warren says:

    By my count there have been seven snowmobilers killed on Adirondack trail systems so far this year. Many have involved speed and alcohol. The number of serious accidents goes unreported by the press but I would guess from what I do hear (and I follow these things weekly in my outdoor recreation report), that there have been perhaps 50 accidents region-wide that have required hospitalization. I would guess that at least 20-30 sleds have gone through the ice.

    This percentage of death and injury in cars would create an uproar (and did in the 1950s and 1960s). Sleds and ATVs should be built safer and the manufacturers and clubs should spend more effort in educating their riders and working towards fewer serious accidents and deaths.

    There is nothing nanny-state about that – it’s simply common sense.

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