DNR, Police Investigate Fatal Crash in Wis. Snowmobile Safety Class

Posted at: 10/28/2013 11:24 AM
Updated at: 10/29/2013 7:36 AM
By: Jennie Olson

A young girl who was participating in a snowmobile safety class was killed when her machine accelerated and crashed in western Wisconsin.
Police in Osceola say the 13-year-old girl, identified as Sarah Thorsland, was taking a class being taught by volunteers from the local snowmobile club on Saturday when her snowmobile suddenly accelerated and hit a loading dock. She was rushed to Osceola Medical Center, then airlifted to Regions Hospital in the Twin Cities and transferred to Gillette Children's Hospital.

Sarah reportedly died Sunday. Police say the young teen was wearing a helmet. The cause of the acceleration is being investigated by police and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Conservation Warden Todd Schaller, who is also the chief of the bureau's Recreation Education and Enforcement Section, said the department expresses its sympathies to the family and friends of Thorsland and to the other students and their families present at the class.

“Safety is our highest priority,” Schaller said in a statement. “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 DNR says the Snowmobile Safety Program began in 1972 and has 879 active instructors who are trained and certified to teach by the DNR. Officials believe Saturday’s accident was the first fatality or serious crash to happen during a DNR safety class.

Mark Luebker, Superintendent of Osceola Schools, released the following statement:

"The Osceola School District and community suffered a tragic loss October 27, when Sarah Thorsland, an Osceola Middle School student, passed away. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Osceola School District and community go out to the family.

She was a wonderful young lady who loved to dance. Her smile could light up a room. She will be greatly missed by the entire Osceola School District, especially her close friends and teachers.

The Osceola Middle School staff will provide grief counselors at the school to help students, family and friends deal with their thoughts and feelings associated with the loss."

A Facebook memorial page has been created at www.facebook.com/ripsarahthorsland.