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WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 17, 2014, 06:30 PM

County officials preach snowmobile safety

Brainerd, MN (WDAY TV) - A man is dead after colliding with a train while on a snowmobile in Brainerd Sunday. Thirty year-old Michael Flannigan died shortly after responders arrived. Authorities say Flannigan crossed in front of an empty coal train despite repeated warnings from the train operator.

By: Brian Abel, WDAY

Brainerd, MN (WDAY TV) - A man is dead after colliding with a train while on a snowmobile in Brainerd Sunday. Thirty year-old Michael Flannigan died shortly after responders arrived. Authorities say Flannigan crossed in front of an empty coal train despite repeated warnings from the train operator.

This crash comes only 7 days after a teenager was Lifeflighted to the hospital after another snowmobile accident near Horace.

With multiple accidents in the last few weeks, we decided to talk with the folks whose job it is to keep snowmobilers safe.

Scott Steffes – Deputy Sheriff, Clay County: “On a trail that you're not experienced on, that's where you'll get yourself in trouble.”

Clay County Deputy Sheriff Scott Steffes says safety starts with proper preparation, like training classes for those who don't have a driver's license.

Scott Steffes: "If you're a juvenile, you have to have a safety certificate in order to ride a snowmobile on a trail"

You'll also need all proper documents with you, like insurance, registration and trail certificates, but safety goes beyond just being compliant. It's also in what you wear.

Scott Steffes: "A lot of people are now wearing chest protectors. They can wear knee pads if they want. Most people just wear full bib coveralls, boots, jackets, facemask helmet."

And before you start sledding, don't forget to tell a friend.

Scott Steffes: "Make sure that somebody knows the trail your taking, what route your taking. Have a cell phone with you, have the matches with you like I said if you do get stuck someplace, especially if you are going out by yourself"

Even if you go the safer route of riding in a pack, keep your eyes open for dangerous spots while on the trial, especially if cruising on water.

Scott Steffes: "Watch out for stumps that are sticking out, don't ever stop underneath a bridge because that’s where ice is the weakest underneath a bridge."

Finally - especially at night when depth perception isn’t as strong as during the day - keep speeds at a safe level.

Steffes also says that proper maintenance is a big step in making sure you don't get stranded in the wilderness.

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