The Wiscasset man who died Sunday was the seventh person to be killed in a snowmobile crash in Maine in a little more than a month, and the third in three days, making this winter an above-average season for snowmobile-related deaths.
Over the past decade, there have been about six fatal crashes involving snowmobiles per winter, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service. The season starts about late fall to early winter and can end as late as April in some parts of the state.
“They’re not something you can track as consistently as motor vehicle crashes,” MacDonald said. “The fatalities fluctuate a lot depending on the conditions.”
More snow usually means more crashes, according to past years of data, MacDonald said. In 2003, an above-average snow season, there were 16 fatal snowmobile crashes, which was the highest of any winter on record.
All of the crashes this year have been in rural parts of the state and most of them in the northern half.
Speeding is the most common reason snowmobilers are killed when they crash, MacDonald said, with alcohol being the second most common factor. In Sunday’s crash, the Wiscasset man’s snowmobile was traveling fast when he hit a dense angular block of ice called a pressure ridge.
“Our message usually is people need to maintain speed when they can properly slow down,” MacDonald said. “It’s often riders that are going too fast to react to conditions.”
Two snowmobilers died Friday in separate locations. A Pennsylvania woman died near Rangeley and a Massachusetts man died near Baxter State Park, each after their machine crashed into trailside trees.
A New Hampshire man died Feb. 14 when he crashed next to Route 113 near the state border. In January, a Connecticut woman died in a crash near Solon, a New Hampshire man died when his snowmobile went through the ice on Moosehead Lake and a Wilton man died in a crash in Oxford County.