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Multi-use trail jogger injured when struck by snowmobile

by Megan Huff

Posted online at the Community Press, Stirling, Tuesday, January 13, 2009. (http://www.communitypress-online.com/SearchCat.aspx?cid=2013&pg=2)

Stirling – Three times a week, Stirling resident Richard Bonathan takes his dogs, and sometimes his newborn baby, and jogs on the multi-use trail east of Goods Road near Stirling.

Sunday, Jan. 11, was a little different.

Around 11 a.m. Bonathan and his three black labs parked at Bargain Bailey's and started off down the trail. Bonathan jogs regularly as he's training for a triathlon later this year in Florida.

"I was about 400 metres from the stop sign heading east when I heard snowmobiles," he said.

According to a police report, eight snowmobiles, travelling in two groups of four, approached Bonathan and his dogs.

"I saw the lead snowmobiler put up his arm to signal that I was there, and I moved to the side just like I always do," he said.

After that, things are a little fuzzy. Bonathan remembers a snowmobile losing control and hitting him, throwing both the driver and himself into the bush.

Const. Scott Burke of the Stirling-Rawdon Police said four snowmobiles had stopped, and the airborne snow reduced visibility for the second set of snowmobilers who were a little farther back on the trail.

"There was a gap between sets, the snowmobiler swerved to stop in time, and turned out to the left, and struck Mr. Bonathan," he said.

Bonathan was taken by ambulance to the Belleville hospital where he was treated for

a concussion, facial abrasions and bruising. None of his three dogs was hurt, and all were returned safely home in a police cruiser – but they're a little shaken up, he said.

"My one dog hasn't really left my side since Sunday," he said. "And I've been really sore. I definitely feel like I was hit by a snowmobile."

Bonathan is now questioning his personal safety on the trails.

"What if I were elderly or walking with my newborn baby like I sometimes do?" he said. "I don't know if this was 100 per cent irresponsibility, or if he just lost control."

Seeing one or two snowmobiles on his jogging route isn't an unusual occurrence, Bonathan said, and he always moves off to the side to let them pass safely.

"Now I'm wondering if I should rethink my jogging schedule," he said.

"I'm a little leery about using the trail on a Sunday as it seems to be the busiest day, but my wife is saying that's not fair, I shouldn't have to."

Bonathan said his wife, Tara, joins him sometimes for recreational skiing, snowshoeing or walking, but she isn't feeling so confident about using the trails now.

"Anyone could potentially be hurt," he said. "If I had have been another snowmobiler, we might be dead."

Bonathan said all eight snowmobilers stayed by his side until the ambulance arrived, as did Stirling-Rawdon police and the fire department.

The snowmobilers "seemed relatively responsible," he said, adding that he also used to be a snowmobiler, and has great respect for the winter sport.

The police department hasn't received any

complaints about snowmobilers on the trails so far this year, Burke said. Stirling-Rawdon police cannot patrol the trails, he added, because the department doesn't have access to a snowmobile, and relies on people to call in about snowmobilers.

"They obey the laws, but we'll always have those ones who don't," he said.

As for Bonathan, he's not going to stop jogging on the trails, but said he hopes snowmobilers will pay close attention to the speed limit, and recognize that people walking or running also have the right to use the trail.

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