A photo of the wreckage from a weekend snowmobile crash in Portage Lake. Credit: Courtesy of MDIFW

After a holiday weekend marked by two snowmobile fatalities and four other serious snowmobile accidents, Maine Warden Service officials are encouraging riders to slow down and be careful while on the trails.

“Speed is the common denominator. Speed, visibility and knowing the area where you’re traveling,” Lt. Daniel Menard of the Maine Warden Service said Monday afternoon. “And obviously anything you do involving alcohol is a bad idea, period. Be very mindful of your speed. Snowmobiles go so fast, but remember you have no protection other than your helmet. The human body is very resilient, but not when it comes to a maple tree.”

Earlier that day, Menard issued a press release detailing the weekend’s non-fatal, significant snowmobile accidents, and also urged snowmobilers to slow down, obey the laws and be mindful of others who are also out on the trails. He said that because it is school vacation week and a very popular time to be on the trails, wardens are not expecting the pace of incidents to slow down much.

“You can pretty much bank on accidents just because of the sheer volume of traffic,” he said. “Especially when you get a nice weekend, weather-wise. It’s been really busy, but we anticipate it being busy right straight through to next weekend.”

The first weekend fatality happened Saturday afternoon, when a Norway woman hit a snowbank, was thrown from her snowmobile and then was struck by another snowmobile while riding on Pennesseewassee Lake in Norway. The second happened Saturday night, when a Massachusetts teen crashed his snowmobile on Thompson Lake in Poland.

Emergency personnel were also kept busy responding to other snowmobile crashes around Maine, Menard said. In Oxford County, two women suffered significant leg injuries and were taken to the Central Maine Medical Center by PACE Ambulance and Life Flight helicopter after a crash that happened Sunday afternoon.

Sarah Proulx, 35, of Hebron was the operator and Natalie Brooks, 34, of Mechanic Falls was the passenger on ITS 89 in Hebron when the accident occured, Menard said. It was Proulx’s first time operating the snowmobile, and when she exited a field along the trail, the machine began hitting some ruts in the trail which caused her to lose control and hit two maple trees, Menard said. The Maine Warden Service was assisted by Hebron Fire & Rescue and Minot Fire & Rescue at the scene of the crash, which officials are attributing to speed, trail condition and inexperience. Both women were wearing helmets.

In Falmouth, the Maine Warden Service is investigating a snowmobile crash that happened Monday morning on Highland Lake. Colin Joyce, 22, of Westbrook was riding down the lake on a 2005 Polaris when he struck a pressure ridge.

“Joyce and the machine were launched almost 140 feet before contacting the snow and ice surface,” Menard wrote.

The snowmobiler, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Speed is considered a factor in the crash, the warden wrote, and the Falmouth Police Department helped with the investigation.

In Aroostook County, two snowmobilers had to visit hospitals with minor injuries after two separate crashes Sunday.

On Sunday morning, two snowmobilers from southern Maine were riding in Caribou on ITS 90 when one rear-ended the other while crossing a bridge, according to the warden. Cindy McGriff of North Waterboro ran her snowmobile into the rear of another rider’s snowmobile and was taken to Cary Medical Center in Caribou, where she was treated and released.

At about 6:30 p.m. that same day, Jennifer McPherson of the Sebago Lake area was travelling east in the town of Portage Lake on ITS 90 and struck a tree after going off trail, according to Menard.

McPherson’s family brought her to Dean’s Restaurant in Portage Lake, about a mile from the crash, and Ashland Ambulance personnel took her to Northern Light Health A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle with injuries that were not considered to be life threatening, Menard said.