Just south of this intersection in southern Door County is where the snowmobile trail crosses the road on County C. Photo by Ramelle Bintz.
On Saturday morning a truck on County C passes the fatal scene of a snowmobile accident Friday. / Ramelle Bintz/Door County Advocate
Charges are unlikely to be filed against the driver of the truck that collided with a Brussels teenager who drove a snowmobile across his path Friday, according to Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel on Monday.
The snowmobiler, Brett M. Buhr, 13, died as a result of the crash. But as with all fatal traffic accidents, the case was referred to the local district attorney, who will make the final call, Vogel said.
No citations were listed on the Door County Sheriff’s Department accident report available Monday. The fatality occurred about 4:30 p.m. Friday when Brett was struck by Joel Jeanquart, 47, also from the Brussels area.
The report showed Brett heading east on a designated snowmobile trail in a field toward County C, one-tenth of a mile south of Swamp Road. He stopped at a posted sign on the trail. Brett was riding legally, wearing a helmet and in the lead, with his older brother, Brandon Buhr, following behind, according to Gary Eddy, Wisconsin conservation warden and snowmobile safety administrator.
Brett Buhr had recently completed a snowmobile safety course and was certified and driving legally, Eddy said. He was also wearing a helmet and eye protection.
For some unknown reason, Brett attempted to cross the road, and his snowmobile was struck by Jeanquart traveling north on County C. Jeanquart was driving a pickup truck pulling a snowmobile trailer with two snowmobiles.
He said he was going about 35 mph when he saw a lone snowmobile at the side of the road, according to the accident report. Jeanquart told deputies the operator drove in front of his vehicle and he was unable to avoid the crash.
He struck the snowmobile on the right side, ejecting Brett. The truck came to rest facing east in the east ditch with the front of his vehicle resting on top of the boy, who was taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay but did not survive. The Brussels-Union-Gardner Fire Department, Southern Door County Rescue, Door County EMS and Brussels-Union First Responders assisted at the scene.
The report lists Brandon Buhr as a witness. The Ski Doo snowmobile, owned by his father, Timothy Buhr, sustained little damage.
“These are horrible accidents and people should remember there is more than one victim here,” Eddy said Saturday. “Besides the boy and his family, the man driving the truck is also a victim, as well as the emergency responders.”
A reconstruction of the accident scene was completed by the Door County Sheriff’s Department Friday evening, Vogel said, and the results forwarded to the district attorney.
Crashes higher this winter
Brett was the 15th person this year to die in a snowmobile accident in Wisconsin and the only juvenile. He is Door County’s first snowmobile fatality this season and the first in four years. A 16th death was reported Sunday in Bayfield County.
Gary Eddy, Wisconsin conservation warden and snowmobile safety administrator, had issued a press release earlier Friday urging safety on snowmobile trails due to other recent fatalities. Even last year, a season nearly non-existent due to little snow, there were 10 snowmobile fatalities.
“Any snowmobile fatalities are too many,” Eddy said.
Conservation wardens also responded to a single fatality on an Oconto County snowmobile trail last week. The Oconto County coroner later determined that person suffered fatal cardiac arrest prior to the crash and his death was not included in the statistics.
Twelve of the 16 accidental deaths were related to alcohol. Besides zero tolerance on trails, Eddy urged all snowmobile operators to take a safety course. Snowmobile certification is required of all operators at least 12 years old born on or after Jan. 1, 1985. Those younger must either ride as a passenger with someone 18 or older or stay on private property.
As ice conditions deteriorate and the channel is now open due to icebreaking, he warned people to watch closely as conditions can change rapidly. If there is any doubt, he said to stay off the ice.
“It has been a bad year for people going through ice,” he said.
While statistics are not good this season, there have been worse years. The record was the winter of 1999-2000 when 39 people died in snowmobile crashes. With 220,000 people who now enjoy snowmobiling as a winter sport in Wisconsin, he said, it is relatively safe. Another 20,000 purchase non-resident trail passes.
Door County’s last snowmobile fatality was four years ago on Feb. 6, 2009, when a 40-year-old Michigan man, William Lawrence Pann, lost control of his snowmobile and struck a tree in the town of Nasewaupee.
Contact Ramelle Bintz at firstname.lastname@example.org.