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Tragic snowmobile crashes in eastern Ontario 'devastating' to community

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Ontario Provincial Police are highlighting the importance of practicing caution when riding a snowmobile.

This comes after a tragic snowmobile collision on Saturday that claimed the life of a 29-year-old woman and sent a 33-year-old male passenger to hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

It happened at around 4 p.m. in McNab/Braeside on a trail managed by the Calabogie and District Snowmobile Club that had just opened earlier that day.

Location of a tragic snowmobile collision on a trail managed by the Calabogie and District Snowmobile Club in McNab/Braeside on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

"Obviously it's devastating to hear that. We have not had that kind of incident on one of our trails that I can recall," said Marc Diotte, president of the Calabogie and District Snowmobile Club.

"It's obviously very disappointing to hear and as an avid snowmobile rider myself; you always put that in your mind that this could happen to anyone if you're not careful. But we don't know exactly what the situation was."

OPP were also called out to North Frontenac Township on Sunday, about 120 km north of Kingston, after the driver of another snowmobile crashed into a tree. That driver suffered serious injuries and needed to be airlifted to hospital.

Elsewhere, one person was killed in a snowmobile crash in Georgian Bay Township on Friday, and OPP said two men managed to get out of frigid waters on Stoco Lake in Tweed after their snowmobile went through the ice.

"Up to this point in our season, we've had barely any snow. We've had a very mild winter, so I think we're seeing more people out on their snowmobiles right now," said Brianna Roberge, media relations officer for Renfrew OPP.

"More people are taking risks with the temperature fluctuations on the ice as well. What we've learned in the past, OPP investigators have linked fatalities to riding unsafe on ice, speeding, loss of control, alcohol use and driver inattention."

Both of the most recent serious incidents in eastern Ontario are still under investigation and there is no word from OPP as to what may have led to those collisions.

"These machines can be very, very dangerous if they are not driven with caution," said Roberge.

Some of the new snowmobiles on the market can reach top speeds of around 180 km/h, far exceeding the posted speed limits on trails managed by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC).

"Most of the areas we've seen incidents are on old railway beds. These are great for trails, they're very smooth, very smooth corners, but they do encourage people to go faster than they probably should go," said Diotte.

"Depending on the experience of the person, they may not really be able to handle that. The posted speed limits on all of our trails is 50 km/h and we really encourage people to do that."

Diotte adds that some drivers have been venturing on to OFSC managed trails when they are actually closed.

He says venturing on one of those trails when it is closed so is actually considered trespassing. 

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