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Investigation under way of weekend snowmobile class fatality

Warden Wire Section: Outdoor Recreation published on October 28, 2013

By: Joanne M. Haas/Bureau of Law Enforcement

DNR, Osceola Police launch joint probe to determine why tragic loss of life occurred

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Bureau of Law Enforcement and the Osceola Police Department are investigating a fatality involving a female student that occurred during a Saturday morning DNR snowmobile safety class in Polk County.

Conservation Warden Todd Schaller, also the chief of the bureau’s Recreation Education and Enforcement Section, said the department expresses its sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased student – Sarah Thorsland, 13, from the Town of Osceola -- and to the other students and their families present at the Saturday class.

“Our thoughts are with the loved ones today. We at the DNR also are deeply saddened and troubled by the tragic loss of Sarah,” Schaller said. “Every facet of this incident is under a joint investigation by the DNR and the Osceola Police Department. We are committed to determine how and why this tragic loss of this life occurred.”

The Osceola Police Department said in its report the student was operating a snowmobile when she collided with a wall during the riding portion of the safety class at the Osceola High School. She received immediate medical attention on the scene and was airlifted to an area hospital where she died Sunday afternoon.

“Safety is our highest priority,” Schaller said. “Our DNR safety classes are designed to provide operators with the skills to safely operate recreational vehicles to enjoy Wisconsin’s outdoors. The classes are taught by trained, certified and dedicated volunteers. We do not take Saturday’s tragic loss of Sarah lightly in any way.”

The Snowmobile Safety Program began in 1972. The program currently has 879 active instructors who are trained and certified to teach by the DNR. It is believed Saturday’s tragedy was the first fatality or serious crash to occur during any DNR safety class.

Last Revised: Monday, October 28, 2013

Warden Wire