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Snowmobile hazard

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Jan 19/01) - A Fort Simpson pilot is warning that careless actions by snowmobilers could result in a loss of life.

Fred Aubin, a pilot for Wolverine Air, said a snowmobiler destroyed a few runway lights and cut a cord disabling half of the lights along the in-town airstrip last Tuesday night. The lights are quite costly to replace, but that's secondary, according to Aubin.

"Cost is one thing, but safety is the main concern," he said. "If there's a medevac in the middle of the night and there's no runway lights, (the pilot's) not going anywhere... If the lights don't work, we lose service. It's a major safety hazard."

The damage delayed the Air Tindi flight the next morning, Aubin said. He added that Air Tindi is picking up the repair bill, as they had the lights installed for their daily service to Yellowknife.

Chris Yarrow, owner of Wolverine Air, and a pilot himself, said there has been an occasional problem with snowmobilers drag racing along the runway in the past, but most seem to respect the boundaries. This latest incident, however, has him dismayed.

"If they keep running over lights and pulling the plugs out the plane's not going to land," he said.

Yarrow added that the RCMP have been asked to keep an eye on the runway while conducting patrols in the area.

RCMP Const. Glen Demmon noted that the snowmobiler in question could face a charge of mischief. There's also a federal law prohibiting trespassing on the runway, he said.