Officials urge snowmobile safety following fatalities

February 18, 2017 06:53 PM

MAYFIELD -- Jeff and Danielle Chamberlain are avid snowmobilers.

“It's a lot of fun,” said Jeff Chamberlain. “Me and my wife enjoy it every weekend.”

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This is the perfect weekend for the Glenville couple riding off into a beautiful sunny day on Sacandaga Lake in Mayfield. The ice on the frozen-over lake is about 12-to-15 inches thick. It's covered with snow, attracting hundreds of riders.

“Because the winter is so good with snow, we have a lot of activity,” said Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino. “We have ice fishing tournaments. We have snowmobile races.”

While conditions are good, Giardino is still cautioning riders to be very careful. He's also a snowmobiler and he says it can be a dangerous activity.

“In the state, we've had 18 fatalities so far,” Giardino said. “Ten of them have been on lakes.”

Two of the deaths this season have been on Sacandaga Lake. Part of the problem, Giardino says, are ice eaves and ridges. That’s the space between the bottom of the ice and the top of the water.

“The ice eaves and ridges are formed when the reservoir dam lets the water out,” he said.

Giardino said riders who are not aware could slam into them and fall through the ice. That's why he suggests staying on the trails. He also says always ride with someone else and check your sled before going out. But most important of all, he says, is limiting your alcohol.

“Most of the accidents come from speed, too much alcohol, or unfamiliarity with the area,” Giardino said.

That’s advice and safety measures the Chamberlain’s take very seriously. That's why they've been riding so long without incident.

“I'm a father of two,” Chamberlain said. “To go out here on a risky lake, I wouldn't do it.”


WNYT Staff

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