Sled accident claims Ashland man

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

    ASHLAND, Maine – A local man died as the result of a snowmobile accident March 29 as he and three friends traveled along ITS 88.
Steven J. Clark, 49, of Ashland was serving as the lead sled in a group of four when the accident occurred around 11 p.m.
    “The group was traveling east on ITS 88 toward town through a large field. The field merged into a trail in the woods that was about 14 feet wide. Clark went a little to the right side of the trail, where his right ski hit a couple smaller trees, becoming wedged,” said Sgt. Tom Ward of the Maine Warden Service.
Getting hung up in the small trees, the sled swerved, causing Clark to be thrown from the machine.
“Clark was thrown into a larger tree, hitting it head-on. Although he was wearing a helmet, he died at the scene of blunt head trauma,” said Ward.
Ward said it was a safe assumption to say that Clark died instantly.
“Speed was a contributing factor, based on the amount of damage to Clark’s snowmobile,” said Ward, adding that the accident remains under investigation.
Clark’s riding companions included Mike Avery, Neil Berry Jr. and Josh Lewin. No one else was injured. Clark’s 2005 Arctic Cat Firecat sustained heavy damage.
Ward received assistance at the scene from Wardens Alan Dudley and Ed Christie; Deputy Kris Malmborg, of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office; Officer Matt Cummings, of the Ashland Police Department; and the Ashland Fire and Ambulance Service.
“We got a lot of help from Ashland Fire and Ambulance. They were a big help,” said Ward.
This marks the season’s second snowmobile fatality in Aroostook County and the fifth in the state. The late arrival of snow this year is partly being credited with the drop in fatalities over past years.
“The late snowfall kept sledders off trails earlier in the season, reducing the chances for fatal accidents. This year’s total of five so far statewide is down considerably from past years, that have averaged 15 to 16 per season,” said Ward.
Now that spring has arrived and the weather is warming, trail conditions are deteriorating. Wardens encourage the use of caution if venturing out on area trails.
“With springlike conditions, riders have to be aware of such things as running water, rocks and roots showing through the snow. Riders should reduce their speed – drive according to the conditions in the area they’re traveling,” said Ward. “Many waterways have either thin crusts or are already open, so snowmobilers need to be extremely careful in such locations.”
For information on area trails, visit www.mesnow.com.