Snowmobile trails 'very dangerous this year,' says Ottawa councillor

Avid snowmobiler and Ottawa Coun. George Darouze say the many freeze-thaw cycles in the capital region have been a challenge for people who groom trails for recreational use.

Firefighter Shawn Mathieson died in snowmobile crash Thursday; another man injured

Snowmobilers cruise through Yellowstone National Park in Montana. (Hannah Potes/Billings Gazette)

Avid snowmobiler and Ottawa Coun. George Darouze say the many freeze-thaw cycles in the capital region have been a challenge for people who groom trails for recreational use.

"The trails were very dangerous this year," said Darouze, the councillor for the rural ward of Osgoode.

"I tell my snowmobile friends, 'Be careful, be cautious, don't speed on the trails — and stick to the trails.'"
Snowmobilers returned to the flat trail where an Ottawa firefighter was killed in a snowmobile crash on Thursday. (CBC)

His comments came after Ottawa firefighter Shawn Mathieson died and an 18-year-old man was seriously injured after their snowmobiles crashed on a groomed trail near Navan on Thursday afternoon.

The spot, near Forced and Russell roads, is popular for snowmobilers who enjoy winding trails that alternate between expanses of field and wooded areas.

Thursday's fatal crash happened on a snowy plain, leaving some snowmobilers baffled by what could have caused it. 

"It's pretty flat. No real blind spots," said Marc Coutu, who was snowmobiling Friday on the same trail where Mathieson died. Police are still investigating the cause of the crash.

2 other recent snowmobile deaths

Snowmobilers are encouraged to check trail conditions before going out to avoid a dangerous situation, Darouze said, adding that his heart goes out to Mathieson's loved ones, as well as to the man who was injured.

"It's never a good feeling. It's never news you want to hear," he said. 

Thursday's snowmobile crash is just the latest recent fatality in and around Ottawa.

I tell my snowmobile friends, "Be careful, be cautious, don't speed on the trails — and stick to the trails."- Ottawa Coun. George Darouze

Justin Petersen, 26, died after the snowmobile he was driving hit a ditch in South Dundas Township on the afternoon of Feb. 23.

Yves Marcotte, 58, was found dead in the Ottawa River near Papineauville, Que., on Feb. 4, three days after he disappeared while snowmobiling.

On the same day, four people were rescued from the Ottawa River near Luskville, Que., and taken to hospital after the snowmobiles they were on crashed through the ice.