Authorities are working to determine how fast a father and his 10-year-old son were traveling on a snowmobile when they hit a tree and died.
Jason Tracy, 33, and his son, whom authorities have not named because he is a minor, collided with a tree around 1 a.m. Sunday at the edge of a field off of Hopkins Road, according to the Maine Warden Service. Speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, and only the 10-year-old was wearing a helmet, Lt. Dan Scott said.
Aided by local fire departments, wardens worked until sunrise on Sunday to map the scene, taking photographs and measurements in order to later calculate how fast the sled was moving when it crashed, said Sgt. Allan Gillis.
The Tracy family declined to comment.
It was the second fatal snowmobile wreck of that weekend — and the fourth in 2018 — after a 53-year-old Smithfield man hit a tree on Friday while riding with his snowmobile club, according to the Warden Service.
It was snowing hard the night of the Hermon crash, and two volunteer officers with the Penobscot Snowmobile Club ferried wardens and paramedics back and forth from Hopkins Road to the crash scene — a distance just shy of a mile through the deep snow — on a “rescue boggin,” an enclosed sled hitched to the back of a snowmobile that can fit up to 5 people, said volunteer Byron Ogden.
The club, which is notified by county dispatch when crashes are reported, bought the sled to help in rescue missions after three people died in two snowmobile crashes in the the Hermon area in 2014 and 2015, he said.
Maine does not have a speed limit for snowmobiles because conditions can vary across the state’s 14,000 miles of sledding trails, as well as its lakes and fields, said Bob Meyer, president of the Maine Snowmobile Association.
Safety is the responsibility of the riders because “there never will be enough wardens to patrol the trails,” Meyer said.
But laws exist to penalize riders for unsafe snowmobiling, including going too fast for the conditions, Gillis said. Wardens use their judgment to enforce them, he said.
In the Hermon area, trails are narrower than in the northern half of the state and they require slower speeds, around 30 to 35 mph max, Ogden said.
It is illegal to operate a snowmobile with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent.
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