Port Perry woman pushing to make flotation devices mandatory for all snowmobilers

Lake ice

A Port Perry woman is pushing for a law that requires all snowmobile riders to wear a flotation device, after her daughter drowned while riding a snowmobile earlier this year.

Jeannie Reuter’s 16-year-old daughter, Sarah, was riding a snowmobile across Lake Scugog in February when it went into the water. According to reports, the snowmobile’s driver was rescued but Reuter’s daughter was pulled underwater with the machine. Her body was recovered by rescue crews later that night.

“I believe if my daughter had a flotation device, she would be alive today,” Reuter told CBC News. “She may have missing fingers, missing toes from frostbite, but she’d be alive.”

Although there is currently no law that requires snowmobilers to wear flotation suits in Ontario, Sgt. Byron Newell told reporters that the OPP’s SAVE unit, which specializes snowmobile education and enforcement, recommends it. 

In Ontario, anyone over the age of 16 with a valid Ontario driver’s licence can operate a snowmobile—something Reuter also hopes to see change. She’d like all snowmobile drivers to get a specific licence, regardless of age. 

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca told CBC that they’re open to discussions, but haven’t committed to changing any snowmobile regulations. 

According to the OPP, there have been a higher-than-usual number of snowmobile-related deaths this year, which have been linked to speeding, loss of control, intoxication, driver inattention, and unsafe ice.

When Reuter’s daughter fell through the ice, she and the snowmobile’s driver were travelling off a marked trail, which is discouraged by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs.