Snowmobile deaths alarming: N.Y. tally at 18; rate is quadruple that of last season

N.Y. tally at 18; rate is quadruple that of last season

In this Feb. 13 photo, rescue crews use a hovercraft to search the frigid waters of Conesus Lake in Livonia for two missing snowmobilers who are believed to have fallen through the ice. (The Associated Press)

The number of snowmobile fatalities this winter in New York state has more than quadrupled compared to last winter, according to Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino. Among them were two on the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Giardino, this morning, offered safety tips for snowmobilers, including staying away from waterways suspected of thin ice.

“We want people to enjoy the lakes, we just want them to get home safely,” Giardino said.

Giardino said there have been 18 snowmobile fatalities in the Empire State this season, including 10 that have occurred on lakes. There were only four snowmobile fatalities in the state during the 2015-16 winter season, Giardino said.

According to the Associated Press, 10 snowmobilers have died in the Northeast on thinly frozen lakes so far in a relatively mild winter. The AP’s research takes into account only those who have died on lakes as a result of falling through thin ice.

Officials warned that, despite recent snowfalls, many lakes have not had enough cold days to develop ice thick enough for riding.

“There is more unsafe ice this winter,” said Col. Andrew Jacob of the New York Forest Rangers. “In most places of the state we haven’t had the bitter cold, below-zero weather you need to get really thick ice.”

Giardino on Wednesday issued a release warning about snowmobiling on trails and lakes in Fulton County.

“In Fulton County, we have had six snowmobile accidents this season, including one fatal accident and one which landed a Mayfield man in the Intensive Care Unit of Westchester Medical Center,” the release said. “In Saratoga County on the Great Sacandaga Lake, there was also a fatal snowmobile accident in January.”

On Jan. 7 in Edinburg, Jonathan J. Cooper, 37, of Edinburg was the second snowmobiler to die on the Great Sacandaga Lake in two weeks. State police in Mayfield said Cooper was operating a snowmobile in a southeasterly direction on the lake, when it struck a rock that was protruding from the lake’s surface.

Cooper was ejected from the snowmobile.

On Dec. 23, Henry Ross III, 24, of Mayfield was killed when his machine struck several lake rocks. Ross was thrown from the sled about a half-mile north of Lanzi’s-on-the-Lake Restaurant. A news release from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department said that while riding across the lake, Ross’ sled veered off to the right and struck a large rock. That impact caused both Ross and the sled to strike another pile of rocks 75 feet from initial impact.

Other local snowmobile accident this winter have included one that led to injuries following a collision with a parked vehicle on Jan. 1. Deputies said that Daniel L. Cameron Jr., of Mayfield suffered an abdominal injury after his machine, which was northbound in a yard on Route 29, crossed into another property and struck a parked pickup truck.

Deputies said Cameron told deputies a passenger inadvertently pressed the throttle.

The most recent snowmobile accident reported in Fulton County was Feb. 5 which left operator Patrick Caruso on the ice of the Great Sacandaga Lake in Mayfield for several hours.

Shortly after 8 a.m. that day, Caruso, 42, was found by Kurt Halas. Investigator Darryl Bazan of the state police said Caruso was driving his snowmobile on the Great Sacandaga Lake when he struck a rock and overturned his vehicle. Halas had been operating his snowmobile on the lake when he noticed Caruso. Caruso was airlifted to Albany Medical Center.

The Associated Press reported that surprisingly, most of the accidents on thin ice have involved men in their 50s and 60s who have been riding snowmobiles most of their lives.

That was the case with Steve Sattler, 67, and his brother Ed, 64, who died this month when their snowmobiles plunged through the ice on Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks as they were riding back to the family’s vacation home.

“It was unexpected because they were always very careful when they went out on ice,” said Linda Sattler, Steve’s daughter.

“We think they became disoriented because the weather was bad,” she said. “It was snowing and they apparently lost track of the trail that ran along the pond. When they realized where they were, it was too late.”

In New Hampshire, a 15-year-old boy drowned but his father was rescued after their snowmobiles fell through ice on Lake Winnipesaukee on Feb. 11. The same day, two men in their 60s died after their snowmobiles went through ice on a different part of the lake. A 54-year-old man was rescued by friends when his snowmobile fell through ice on the Piscataquog River Jan. 21.

In Maine, a 52-year-old Massachusetts man died when his snowmobile went through ice on Messalonskee Lake in early January.

Searchers are still looking for the bodies of two 40-year-old men who disappeared during a snowmobile outing on Conesus Lake in western New York on Feb. 11. All that has been found is their helmets. A search also continues on Lake Champlain for the second of two Vermont men, ages 23 and 32, who rode across to the New York shore the evening of Feb. 9. Their snowmobiles were found in the water Sunday morning.

One body was found Wednesday.