The first snowmobile fatality of the season has prompted the Maine Warden Service to remind riders of steps they should take to ensure their safety while riding in and around the state. FILE PHOTO

The first snowmobile fatality of the season has prompted the Maine Warden Service to remind riders of steps they should take to ensure their safety when they venture out on trails and frozen lakes and ponds.

Wear a helmet, make sure to give someone your trip plan before going out on a ride and drive at a speed that allows you to stop if you encounter a rock, open water, tree, ice ridge or another person was the advice Cpl. John MacDonald Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife gave in the wake of a snowmobile crash last Saturday that claimed the life of Bryan Sylvester, 57, of Long Pond.

Sylvester was not wearing a helmet and died when he was ejected from his snowmobile when it hit uneven ice on Long Pond about a mile and a half from his home near the confluence of Parlin Stream, MacDonald said.

Sylvester had left his Long Pond Road home near Jackman around 2 p.m. Saturday, but the warden service did not get a call until about 6 p.m. Wardens immediately searched for Sylvester and found his body at 7:45 p.m.

MacDonald said in a telephone interview Monday that officials are trying to determine what time Sylvester died – whether he drove directly to the spot where he was found or had traveled to other areas beforehand. Often, friends and family members search for a snowmobiler before notifying authorities, he said.

It gets dark by 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m., and Sylvester’s crash possibly occurred in darkness, he said.

The ridge Sylvester struck was formed by ice having broken up and refrozen and developed into large ice chunks, MacDonald said.

“It was very, very uneven, and some of it was probably a foot or two tall, jagged ice pieces,” he said.

He said officials believe Sylvester was driving his 2008 Ski Doo MXZ 600 at a fairly high rate of speed before the crash occurred. They did not know on Monday whether alcohol was a factor.

Asked what tips he might recommend for safe snowmobiling, MacDonald said officials do not encourage snowmobilers to venture out by themselves for a variety of reasons, including the possibility that they could encounter mechanical or physical issues.

But officials understand people will travel alone at times, and in those instances it is important to leave a trip plan that indicates the times of departure and return, MacDonald said.

Wearing a helmet and driving at a speed that enables a rider to stop or avoid an obstacle also is important, he said.

“I think people are still of the mindset that this won’t happen to me, and they don’t take that step,” he said.

He said that speed is the top contributing factor to fatalities.

“That’s what we see most of the time – people driving too fast,” he said.

Sylvester was employed by the state Department of Transportation. His body was taken to Giberson Funeral Home in Madison after the crash. Jackman Fire and Ambulance also responded to the scene Saturday.

Comments are not available on this story.