TOWNSHIP 9 RANGE 7, Maine — A Presque Isle man became the ninth fatality of the snowmobile season Saturday when he lost control of his snowmobile on a curve and struck a tree.
Brian James, 22, died of a neck fracture at the scene, according to Sgt. Tom Ward of the Maine Warden Service.
Ward said James and Chad Lavway, 22, of Presque Isle were traveling south on separate sleds on Sugar Birth Ridge Road at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday when the accident occurred. He said James, who was on the lead snowmobile, “basically failed to negotiate a sweeping right-hand corner” on the woods road which had about 3-foot snowbanks.
“It appears that he just lost control — he was going around the corner a little too fast and he went airborne at one point and he hit a 14-inch white birch tree,” Ward said Sunday. James was wearing a helmet.
Lavway, 22, who was traveling on a snowmobile some distance behind James, passed the accident scene without knowing it because James and his snowmobile had gone over the snowbank, according to Ward. Lavway assumed his friend already had arrived at their destination, a family camp. When Lavway reached the camp and discovered James was not there, he and two men in the camp headed out to search for him, he said. Wardens received a call about 12:50 a.m. after the trio had found James.
Wardens Preston Pomerleau, Charles Brown, Kevin Pelkey and Ward were able to drive to the scene because the road was covered by hard-packed snow, according to Ward. Ashland Ambulance and Fire also responded to the call.
Speed was a factor in the accident, which is still under investigation, Ward said. James’ body was taken to Duncan Graves Funeral Home in Presque Isle. His 2001 Arctic Cat ZR 600 snowmobile was demolished.
There are places in the higher elevations in Aroostook County that still have snow, according to Ward.
“We’re just urging folks to use a lot of common sense and drive prudently. The water crossings are changing every day, it’s getting late in the season, and the conditions can be treacherous, and we’re urging folks to use caution,” he said.