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Recent Snowmobile Deaths Highlight Concern In Vilas County


Law enforcement reports dominated information provided to the Vilas County Recreation Trails Safety Committee last week and included citations, warnings, accident data and safety issues to a new business. 

Vilas County recreation officer, Deputy Jason Molle, had 440 patrol hours as of Feb. 20 with 35 citations and 52 warnings issued. “Most of the citations were for no trail pass and no operation certification,” he said. “Most of the warnings were for stop sign violations and excess speed.”

Dep. Molle reported 34 accidents and five fatalities this year compared to 29 accidents and no fatalities last year at this time.

Last Saturday one person died hitting a tree on Little St. Germain lake, he was Richard Hetsley, 38, of Maple Park, Ill. A second person last Saturday also died in hitting a tree off Star Lake in the town of Plum Lake. He was 27 year old Justin Anderson of Belvidere, Ill.

In addition, there were 31 complaints this year compared to 24 last year with most on snowmobile travel on town roads. “One area where we receive road complaints was a road that was a legal travel route,” he said.”We did get five ATV complaints which all came from St. Germain.”

DNR warden Tim Price indicated the safe snowmobile billboard is now in St. Germain and he thanked Eagle River city staff for lighting the billboard parked by Shopko and keeping plowed access to it. “One of my main concerns were high school students taking sleds to school and not stopping at stop signs,” Price said. “I clocked some at 55 mph on the trail on the west side of Highway 45 north of the bridge.”

Price said they had recruit wardens up here for a weekend for snowmobile law enforcement training and in two nights they wrote 19 intoxicated operation citations.

One new area of concern Price pointed out was on Highway H south of Highway 70 where sleds are traveling on the highway to Bucktail Gentlemen's Club. The first part of Highway H is in Vilas County and then enters Oneida County. “There is a safety concern not only with using the highway by snowmobiles but also vehicles parked on both sides,” Price said. “There is no current snowmobile trail on either side of Highway H and seems to be little or no room to build one.”

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