The death of a 13-year-old boy in a snowmobile accident in northwest Iowa is bringing attention to off-road vehicle safety. The teenager, Raymond Gatzemeyer of Fonda, died last Wednesday when he hit a rope suspended between the pillars of a bridge.
David Downing, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says such dangers are common when crossing someone’s property. “Often during the year those landowners make changes to the property, they may put up a cable between a gate, they may have a suspension wire coming down off a corner post, and those types of hazards are unmarked,” Downing says.
There are plenty of places to ride in Iowa that are safe, according to Downing. “We have more than 8,000 miles of designated snowmobile trails in the state,” Downing says, “and those trails are groomed and they’re marked so you know where the hazards are. That’s why we always recommend that folks stay on those trails.”
At the time of the accident, Gatzemeyer was with three other people, two who were on snowmobiles and one who was operating an ATV. They were not injured. It’s unclear why there was a rope attached to the bridge pillars. Gatzemeyer was wearing a helmet. Downing made his comments on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” program.