Kenney Reviewing Snowmobile Rental Laws; Fish and Game Urges Caution This Weekend

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Executive Councilor Joe Kenney


CONCORD – Saying he cannot look the other way as serious snowmobile crashes stack up involving rentals and inexperience, Executive Councilor Joe Kenney is convening a meeting to gather information next week, while Fish and Game officials urge caution on the trails this weekend.

The Wakefield Republican said he wants to gather information first on the scale of the problem, including insurance information that he has not seen. He said he has been told there are far more accidents than the ones reported that involve a local medical response or a Fish and Game rescue.

Lt. Mark Ober, Jr., District One chief for the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department in Lancaster, which covers all of Coos County, said Thursday that so far this season there have been 21 crashes the department has responded to including two fatalities on rentals and seven rental crashes over all. 

In all, he said there have been three fatalities just in Coos County all involving women from out of state.  

“The latest fatality was a woman from Massachusetts who I believe was her first time ever on a snowmobile,” Ober said.

In the most recent crash involving a rented sled, a woman escaped death but was seriously injured.

Fish and Game Sgt. Alex Lopashanski reported that on Monday, Feb. 26, shortly before 1:30 p.m., the department was notified that a snowmobile crash had occurred on Bear Notch Road in Bartlett. 

The operator was Camilla Silva Sousa, 22, of Windsor, Conn. was operating a rented snowmobile when she turned and drove off the left side of the trail and into a ditch. 

As a result of the impact, the snowmobile flipped over and landed on top of her. Initially she was unconscious, but she did regain consciousness. The crash occurred two miles from the nearest trailhead. Sousa was treated and evacuated in a rescue sled by members of Conway Fire and Rescue and then taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in North Conway for treatment.

Inexperience played a key role in the crash and no charges are pending, officials said.

The department is gearing up for this weekend as weather conditions in some areas have deteriorated from the rain, warm temperatures and now deep-freeze.

“As the season winds down, trail conditions in many areas will become challenging. Riders are reminded to use care while enjoying the last riding of the season,” according to a press release from the department.

Kenney said he wants to look at a number of issues related to safety on the trails for next season and they include rescue resources and distribution; comprehensive trail mapping; trail capacity; the size, speed and power of the rented snowmobiles; whether there can be modifications to limit speeds; and what sort of education is offered or required in other states; as well as some data from the Department of Insurance.

“Safety trumps everything,” said Kenney, who noted he has been hearing a lot of positive response from people who see a need for more laws related to rented snowmobile rentals to protect visitors and vacationers.

Currently, the only law related to snowmobile rentals in the state requires the person must possess a valid driver’s license. The rest is left up to the rental companies.

“I’m the perfect person to deal with this as it’s in my backyard,” Kenney said, and he said he knows the individuals and entities involved.

He said after he has an information gathering session with appropriate state agency heads, from Safety to Fish and Game to the trails bureau and travel and tourism, he wanted to bring in industry officials and start crafting legislation that could help lead to safer trails.

The first step is “to collect all of the facts.”

“It’s easy to look the other way” but he can’t do that in good conscience, Kenney said. “We have to be good hosts.”

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