A mother was killed and her daughter injured when their snowmobile slammed into a parked trailer on Sylvan Lake on Saturday afternoon.
The collision happened just before 3 p.m. in the staging area along the shore, which was busy with vehicles as people arrived to enjoy the sunny day.
A 41-year-old Red Deer woman, who was driving the snowmobile, was pronounced dead at the scene and her seven-year-old daughter was taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre with undetermined injuries. She was later released.
Sylvan Lake RCMP Cpl. James Allemekinders said both were wearing helmets.
“However, it is believed that due to the sizeable impact during the collision, the deceased’s helmet did not stay properly fastened and came off contributing to the severity of her injuries,” said Allemekinders.
The snowmobile hit the parked truck and trailer at high speed, he said. The posted speed limit is 10 km/h and police are still investigating what happened.
Calgarian Melissa Elder was skating with her Sylvan Lake boyfriend on the nearby rink when she heard the roar of a snowmobile.
“We heard like a throttle open on a snowmobile and we both kind of looked and we saw this snowmobile with two people on it full-throttling it through the staging area.
“Both of us were thinking to ourselves someone is going to get hurt. Just a few seconds after that they had collided, and we heard a big bang.”
Elder and her boyfriend skated over as close as they could and people were yelling to call 911, which she did.
The young girl was sitting on the snowmobile in front of the woman.
“It looked like when they were coming through that parking lot, it actually looked like the daughter was driving.” It appeared like the mother was trying to lean forward to stop the machine or steer it away from trouble, she said.
But before she could correct, the machine slammed into a trailer. The snowmobile ended up underneath the trailer.
“It’s just so tragic. It makes you think of how your life can change within a matter of minutes. Here they are out enjoying a beautiful day and then the next minute you’ve lost your mom.”
Police have not released the name of the woman at the request of the family. The accident remains under investigation.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson was stunned to hear about the tragedy.
“I am just shocked. It’s a tragedy. It’s horrible,” she said on Sunday. “I feel so badly for those involved.”
“My worst fear was always that there was going to be an accident on the roads of Sylvan Lake. But to have it happen actually out on the lake is just horrendous.”
The Town of Sylvan Lake is currently reviewing a decision made a year ago to repeal a bylaw allowing snowmobiles to make short trips to the lake from homes within town. A number of recreational snowmobile riders and off-road vehicle users want to be able to use local lanes or roads to reach the lake for ice fishing or other recreation.
If a deadly accident could happen on a clear day on the lake, Samson wondered how snowmobiles could use local roads safely.
“We’re going to have really rethink where council might be heading with off-highway vehicles on town roads.”
The staging area is popular on a busy day, but she has not heard of any similar accidents there in her 30 years in town.
The RCMP are asking any witnesses to contact the detachment at 403-887-3334. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the accident. Police are investigating the snowmobile for mechanical malfunction.