Daughter 'would be alive today' if she was wearing flotation device on snowmobile, mother says

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Daughter 'would be alive today' if she was wearing flotation device on snowmobile, mother says

"I believe if my daughter had a flotation device, she would be alive today," said Jeannie Reuter as she stood next to the place where the body of her daughter was pulled from the water.

Sarah Lumsden. 16, drowned after the snowmobile she was riding fell through the ice on Lake Scugog near Port Perry, which is 82 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

"She may have missing fingers, missing toes from frostbite, but she'd be alive."

Reuter, who lives in Port Perry, is now urging a law requiring flotation devices for all snowmobile riders and additional policing on frozen lakes. 

Her daughter was riding a snowmobile on Feb. 16 when it went into the water. The driver was rescued, but Lumsden was pulled under. Her body was recovered later that night.

Currently, there is no law enforcing the wearing of flotation suits while snowmobiling in Ontario.

"We recommend it to the public," said Sgt. Byron Newell of the OPP's SAVE unit — which specializes in marine, snowmobile and ATV vehicle enforcement and education. "It's not a law, however we feel it's the best practice to do that."

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the ministry is open for discussions and conversations, but wouldn't commit to making changes in snowmobile regulation.

"This is a tragic incident and the ministry will continue to look at ways to improve," he said. 

According to the ministry's website:

- Anyone over the age of 16 with a valid Ontario driver's licence can drive a snowmobile.

- Anyone over the age of 12 with a motorized snow vehicle operator licence can drive on snowmobile trails.

- Anyone under the age of 12 can drive a snowmobile on private property.

At the time of Lumsden's accident, her snowmobile was travelling off a marked trail, something the Federation of Snowmobile Clubs of Ontario strongly discourages. The federation recommends only using routes that have been marked and identified as available to the public.

In addition to flotation suits, Reuter wants to see snowmobile drivers licensed in a similar way to boaters who need to pass a test to get a licence. 

Earlier this year, the OPP said there was a higher-than-usual number of snowmobile-related deaths. OPP investigators linked the high number of fatalities to riding on unsafe ice, speeding, loss of control, intoxication and driver inattention.