By MICHAEL COUSINEAU And DAN TUOHY New Hampshire Union Leader
Manchester firefighter James Kelly of Hooksett was injured in a snowmobile crash last month in Auburn. (Courtesy Auburn Fire Department)
Speed and alcohol may have been factors in a deadly snowmobile crash in Barnstead early Saturday, the fourth snowmobiler to die in a crash this winter in New Hampshire.
Aaron E. Brown, 37, of Dover died of injuries suffered in the crash about 1:15 a.m., according to Fish and Game.
Brown, who was wearing a helmet, was riding on a private trail around a small pond. When he reached an earthen dam several hundred yards long, Brown reportedly accelerated in a rapid manner along a trail on the top of the dam and didn't negotiate a turn at the end of the dam, according to Fish and Game.
"He and his machine traveled a distance into the woods off the trail and collided with multiple trees," Fish and Game Lt. James Juneau said Saturday.
Juneau said he hasn't seen a spike in crashes this winter.
"Our numbers are largely consistent with the prior year with the total number of accidents and the number of fatals," Juneau said.
He said the other fatal accidents happened:
. Jan. 28, in Pittsburg, during the day on a sanctioned trail. A Hudson woman died.
. Feb. 1, in Success, on Success Pond, at night. A Berlin woman was killed.
. Feb. 8, in Washington, during the day. A Dover man died.
Overall, there have been 45 reported snowmobile accidents this winter, resulting in 42 injuries.
Among the 43 accidents with reports that included weather conditions, 26 happened during clear conditions, 12 occurred with an overcast sky, three while snow was falling and two when it was raining or sleeting, Juneau said.
He said he didn't have specific accident numbers from last winter but said they were similar to this season.
The accident victims vary in age and include people visiting from outside the state.
The Washington fatality claimed the life of a 62-year-old Dover man while an 11-year-old girl was seriously injured in a South Acworth crash in January and had to be flown by helicopter to the hospital.
In February, a 19-year-old Manchester man was treated for injuries after his snowmobile crashed into some trees on a trail off Lakeshore Road in Manchester. That same month, a Manchester firefighter underwent surgery when his snowmobile crashed into a tree in Auburn.
The month before, a Florida man suffered significant injuries in a crash in Pittsburg.
This month, state officials, in the wake of a "skimming" accident in Weirs Beach, warned snowmobile and ATV riders who like to ride their machines over pockets of open water on state lakes that they are breaking the law, and that they are risking their lives.
People have drowned while skimming in past years, especially in February and March, when the skimming tends to grow in popularity.
"We've had to pull bodies out of the water of people who thought they were just having some fun," said Sgt. Brad Morse, a Fish and Game conservation officer said.
The activity tends to grow in February and March, when warm spells of even one day will open up holes in the ice, he said. Some snowmobilers enjoy getting up speed and crossing the open water, hoping to get to ice on the other side.
Juneau had a quick tip: "We can't stress enough that helmets save lives."