An Ottawa family who lost their son in a snowmobile crash earlier this week is warning of the dangers of the machines. 26-year-old Justin Petersen died when his snowmobile hit a ditch near Sullivan Road in South Dundas Township. It was just over one year ago Petersen’s uncle died on a snowmobile as well. Justin Petersen had everything going for him.  He had just gotten married last summer and had a baby on this way then summer.

Then, on Tuesday, a simple ride on a snowmobile changed everything.  Petersen was with his 36-year-old cousin doing what he had done most of his life, according to his mother Darlene. 

“Every chance he got he would be out snowmobiling, four wheeling, boating,” she says, “He did everything and anything. He never sat still.”

She says her son had been snowmobiling since he was 3.  He knew the trails, knew the machines.  Still, something went horribly wrong. OPP are still investigating the details of the crash but Justin’s father, Ivan, believes he knows what may have happened.  He says because of lack of snow this year, the slides and engine on snowmobiles tend to heat up.  He believes his son and nephew pulled off the snowmobile trail to let the engines cool down and headed for deeper snow. From a distance, at a certain speed, they probably wouldn't even have seen the drainage ditch until it was too late.  His cousin was injured; Justin Petersen was killed. It was almost one year to the day that his uncle died in a similar crash near Pembroke.

“They are a fun machine,” says Ivan Petersen, “I drove them lots, had a lot of fun, but they’re dangerous machines.”

It is a tragedy on many levels.  Justin, who his parents describe as a jokester with a zest for life, was just married last August. The couple is expecting their first baby in July.  There is a trust fund now to help with the baby's education.  Justin's wife Shelley is in shock.

“Devastated, just devastated,” his parents said, “Family and friends are helping out, surrounding her.  She’s here at our house lots so we're taking care of her.”

Police have issued several warnings this winter because of the lack of snow and the warmer weather to keep any way from any thin ice and to stick to the trails.

“The trails are there for a reason,” says Constable Joel Doiron, with the Ontario Provincial Police, “stay on the trails, especially in areas that you are not too familiar with.”

For the Petersens, the warnings have come too late.

“Do I want to get rid of snowmobiles? I have one,” says Ivan Petersen, “I'll never drive it again. I can tell you that.”

The Petersens say their son Justin was excited about being a father, would have made an incredible dad.  A funeral will be held Monday at the Trinity Bible Church on Stagecoach Road in Osgoode