Jason Battersby is lucky to be alive after he hit a cable stretched over the road while riding a snowmobile near the Prince George Airport.
It was just about dark on Feb. 3 when Battersby and his friend, Steve Slovak, came to the edge of a field where they'd been riding their sleds and pulled onto Beachcraft Road for a short ride to connect to another trail. Battersby was just ahead of Slovak and didn't see the heavy metal cable until the last second. He tried to brake but was unable to stop. Fortunately, he was able to get his hand up to deflect the cable, which caught his hand and jabbed his thumb hard into his neck. The impact broke his hand, gouged a hole in his neck, and ripped his helmet off, knocking him briefly unconscious.
"He was 40 or 50 feet in front of me, probably going 50 kilometres an hour and all of sudden he stopped dead and the snowmobile kept going, and when I got to him he was unconscious," said Slovak.
"He hit so hard the fencepost kinked and bent down. He was kind of delirious and clutching his throat and then I saw the cable on the ground and realized what happened. I couldn't keep him down and while I was trying to use his cell phone he walked over to his snowmobile and started it up and took off."
Battersby drove to his house less than a kilometre away and his wife drove him to UHNBC. He was released later that night, left with whiplash and a wound on the side of his neck.
"Two different doctors came in to look at him and they were shocked he was still alive, he hit so hard," said Slovak. "It could have been a lot worse. By rights, with how fast he was going, he should have been dead. It just irritates me, not only because it's a friend who got hit, but it also easily could have been me."
Battersby did not want his comments used in the story.
When Battersby hit the cable, Slovak says it was marked with plastic grocery bags and some pieces of survey flagging tape. Battersby and Slovak took steps to ensure the cable will be more visible when they returned to the road a few days after the accident to attach reflective tape.
The road is on leased property which leads to Predator Paintball park in an area surrounded by snowmobile trails. Predator Paintball owner Susan McKeown was shocked to learn of the incident when she was awakened by the RCMP late on the night of the accident. She said the cable has been in place for eight years to block entrance to the park and help prevent theft of equipment she has stored there.
"It's well-marked, it's totally ribboned off and with a headlight on your snowmobile I can't see why you wouldn't see it ahead of time -- that's the first time in eight years anyone has hit it," said McKeown.
"I'm thankful the guy's OK and now that this incident has happened I want to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said. "We have lots of snowmobilers and four-wheelers out there, and they have to realize they are on private property.
"I would never want something like that to happen where someone gets hurt like that. I lost a friend who was snowmobiling and went right through a barbed wire fence and was decapitated."
Prince George RCMP spokesperson Craig Douglass said McKeown was not breaking any laws when she blocked the road with the cable. Police responded to Slovak's complaint and after visiting the scene determined the cable was adequately marked with tape and there will be no criminal investigation.
"The cable was not put there to harm someone, the cable was put there to keep people out of a private driveway," said Douglass. "Our message would be, don't ride on roads. People don't want snowmobiles on their properties and they put up fences, they put up barbed wire and they put up cables, and snowmobilers need to beware."
Insurance and a special permit is required for any snowmobiler who wants to operate the vehicle on a highway or road right of way. Otherwise, it is illegal. But Slovak said the same thing could happen to an insured motorcycle rider allowed by law to ride on the street who doesn't see the cable.