FORT KENT, Maine — The juvenile driver of the snowmobile that struck a musher running the Can-Am Crown 30-mile race Saturday morning has been charged with operating to endanger, according to Maine Warden Adrien Marquis.
Jeffrey McRobbie, 59, of Wayne suffered multiple injuries that were not considered life-threatening, Marquis said Saturday evening.
McRobbie was mushing a team of six dogs west on the Fort Kent Heritage Trail about 10 minutes into his race when he met a group of four snowmobilers heading east, Marquis said.
The first two riders slowed down and signaled for the ones behind to slow, but the third operator was apparently blinded by snow kicked up by the snowmobiles in front of him, Marquis said.
“The 15-year-old operator did not realize he had to stop until it was too late,” Marquis said. “In an attempt to avoid the snowmobile in front of him he veered away but did not realize the musher was there and slammed into him and his sled.”
The snowmobile did not strike any of the dogs, but hit McRobbie head on.
“He basically took a snow machine to the face,” Marquis said. “He was lucky he was wearing a helmet.”
Rescue personnel used a specialized toboggan sled to transport McRobbie to a waiting ambulance at the intersection of the trail and Violette Settlement Road.
He was taken to Northern Maine Medical Center with several lacerations to his eye, multiple injuries to his left arm and injuries to a finger and was in surgery Saturday afternoon, Marquis said.
The snowmobiler is from Pennsylvania and was traveling with his father, twin brother and another family member, Marquis said.
The impact threw McRobbie off his dogsled and his team kept running down the trail for about a half mile to a mile before several spectators stopped them.
The dogs were taken back to Can-Am Central at Lonesome Pine Ski Trails in Fort Kent with no injuries, Marquis said.
The impact ripped a ski off the juvenile’s Firecat 700 snowmobile.
“I attribute the accident to speed, lack of experience and following too closely,” Marquis said, adding alcohol was not a factor.
McRobbie was wearing a GoPro video camera at the time of the accident and Marquis said the device recorded the immediate events leading up to the accident and the accident itself.
That footage has been turned over to the district attorney, Marquis said.
The warden estimated the snowmobile was traveling between 25 mph and 30 mph at the point of impact with its brakes locked in an attempt to stop.
“There are no speed limits on snowmobile trails in Maine,” Marquis said. “But this is a multiuse trail and snowmobiles need to yield to nonmotorized travelers.”
The location of the accident is one of the few sections of the trail shared by snowmobiles and dog sleds during the race and is wide enough to accommodate both, according to Can-Am Crown organizers.
Recent snowfall in northern Maine has made the area a prime snowmobile destination this past week and Marquis said the trails were unusually busy this weekend.
“Northern Maine is the only game in town for snowmobiling,” he said. “I’ve never seen a weekend like this with so many snow machines in the area.”
St. John Valley Times writer Don Eno contributed to this report.