Deadly crashes claim lives of 5 Michigan snowmobilers in single day

DNR continues safety patrols

A group of snowmobilers riding right in Gogebic County on a cold day during the winter of 2017-2018. (Photo: Michigan DNR)
A group of snowmobilers riding right in Gogebic County on a cold day during the winter of 2017-2018. (Photo: Michigan DNR)

DETROIT – Five Michigan snowmobilers died Friday in crashes.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said police investigated fatal crashes in Gogebic, Luce, Alger and Kalkaska counties. The Gogebic County crash was a head-on collision that claimed the lives of two people. The Luce County crash killed a 71-year-old rider who hit a tree.

Six snowmobilers in the Upper Peninsula and three snowmobilers in the Lower Peninsula have died this winter. According to the DNR, 15 snowmobilers died last winter. Ten of those deaths occurred in the U.P.

RELATED: Michigan woman dies after falling through ice while snowmobiling

“This recent rash of deadly crashes illustrates the critical importance of snowmobile safety,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, a DNR district law supervisor in Marquette. “Many fatalities occur because of drinking and driving, high speed or carelessness, all of which are preventable actions.”

A "Ride Right" safety campaign partnership between the DNR and Michigan Snowmobile Association aims to educate snowmobilers and help reduce the number of fatalities. 

The initiative includes contacts with officers, public service announcements and press materials to remind riders to ride on the right side of the trail, drive at a safe speed and drive sober. Snowmobilers are also being asked to anticipate, and yield to, trail groomers.

DNR conservation officers were on patrol over the weekend, checking permits, talking with riders, checking for equipment violations and testing snowmobiles for noise level emissions.

Officers made about 100 contacts with riders Friday during a group patrol in South Range in Houghton County.

Of those interactions, officers issued 20 warnings to riders for improper trail permit and registration display. Eight tickets were issued, half of which were for registration violations, with the remainder for noise emissions exceeding the 88-decibel limit. One officer assisted a rider whose snowmobile caught fire a few miles north of the patrol area.

A group patrol was conducted Saturday in Keweenaw County, on Gratiot Lake Road – Trail No. 3.

About 250 contacts with riders were made, with 30 warnings and three tickets issued for improper trail permit or registration display. A total of 15 tickets were written, including eight for noise emission violations, two for careless operation of a snowmobile and one each for driving with a suspended license and no sled registration.

A sound meter patrol conducted Saturday in Grand Marais in Alger County yielded no sound violation tickets. Officers contacted 578 riders. They gave 41 verbal warnings and 16 tickets for registration and trail permit violations.

Officers also conducted patrols Sunday, with a group watching Ontonagon County.

About 100 contacts were made. They resulted in 10 warnings for failure to display and attach trail permits or improper registration display. Five tickets were written for registration violations. Five other tickets were written for failure to display or attach trail permits, two for noise violations and one for careless operation.

Patrols will continue through the winter.

“There are a lot of factors that could play into the high number of fatal snowmobile crashes we’ve had during this early part of the winter,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “But whether it’s because of good snow concentrating riders in certain parts of the state, unfamiliarity with local trails or speed, recklessness or alcohol, all of these things underscore the importance of riding safely and riding right.”