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DNR urges sled safety after two deadly snowmobile accidents less than six hours apart on Northwoods trails


Two snowmobilers in two different accidents have died on Northwoods trails in the last 24 hours.

As WXPR reported earlier, a 57-year-old died when the rider’s sled was hit by a car while trying to cross Highway 47 near Bridge Road north of Rhinelander Thursday evening.

The Sheriff’s Office says a group of snowmobiles was crossing Highway 47 from east to west near the intersection with Bridge Road.

The last rider in the group was struck by a southbound vehicle.

In a different accident earlier the same day, a snowmobiler died when the sled they were riding left the trail and hit a tree near Phelps.

That person was a 59-year-old from Phelps.

Both accidents are still being investigated by the Wisconsin DNR.

These are the 4th and 5th snowmobile deaths of the season.

In a news release Friday morning, the Wisconsin DNR urged snowmobilers to practice safe snowmobiling.

This includes:

  • Snowmobile operators need to be safe and responsible while on the trails, routes and frozen bodies of water.
  • It is never OK to drink and operate a snowmobile. Impairment of any kind – drugs or alcohol – can have tragic consequences. 
  • Always operate within the limits of your skills, visibility and snowmobile. Sled Safe, Sled Smart.

“One fatality is one too many. This is not the way the DNR wants to start the new year. We welcome all snowmobilers, resident and out-of-state visitors. We want everyone to enjoy the fun and to share the trails safely,” said DNR Off-Highway Vehicle Administrator Lt. Jacob Holsclaw in a statement. “We strongly urge snowmobilers to operate within their abilities, keep their speed in check and wait to enjoy adult beverages until they are home.”

The last two snowmobile seasons had seen a similar number of snowmobile deaths by this time. In 2021, 13 snowmobilers died in accidents. Last year, there were a total of 16 snowmobile-related deaths.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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