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Police investigating snowmobiler's death, actions of Lake Luzerne logger

2011-03-16T15:24:00Z 2011-03-16T17:18:57Z Police investigating snowmobiler's death, actions of Lake Luzerne loggerBy DON LEHMAN dlehman@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
March 16, 2011 3:24 pm  • 

LAKE LUZERNE -- Whether a local logger will face criminal charges in connection with a Tuesday accident that killed a snowmobiler will likely be determined by the Warren County district attorney's office after the county Sheriff's Office completes its investigation.

Sheriff's officers continued to interview witnesses Wednesday as part of their inquiry into the death of Gary T. Clark, 50, of Comstock.

Clark was snowmobiling on a trail in the town of Lake Luzerne when a tree felled by Michael S. Vernum, 31, of Lake Luzerne, hit him, according to the Warren County Sheriff's Office.

Clark was on Viele Pond Road, which is not plowed in the winter and is part of the South Warren Snowmobile Club trail system. The road is open to vehicle traffic during warmer months, but is off-limits to vehicles other than snowmobiles in the winter, according to the club.

Clark had snowmobiled north from Old Stage Road, which becomes Viele Pond Road, officials said.

Vernum had permission from a landowner in the area to cut trees, but sheriff's Investigator Doug David said police were working to determine whether he was on the land where he was permitted.

Two people working with Vernum were on the trail and tried to stop Clark as he came around a corner toward where Vernum was cutting a tree, but they were unable to get him to stop in time, police said.

David said investigators were not releasing the details of exactly what happened, or saying whether Vernum had planned for the tree to fall toward the trail instead of away from it.

"I can't release what he did or didn't say at this point," David said.

Vernum could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He is a self-employed logger who was cutting trees in the area for firewood, officials said.

Authorities said Vernum or one of the men with him continued to cut the tree after it hit Clark, before emergency responders arrived. There were also indications that Vernum had felled at least one other tree across the trail in recent days.

Michael Fazio, president of the South Warren Snowmobile Club, said he was interviewed Wednesday by David. He said he could not discuss the case further at the request of the Sheriff's Office.

Fazio said in an interview Tuesday, however, that the snowmobile club has had a number of conflicts with Vernum over the years about him logging on or near snomwobile trails in the Lake Luzerne area, and had warned Vernum about the danger to snowmobilers.

Officials said Clark worked as a contractor.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. sparkler1964
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    sparkler1964 - March 21, 2011 9:03 pm
    Accidents happen, they're unforeseen.This was foreseen therefore it is not an accident.If someone tells you not to stick your finger in a light socket because it can kill you would you?He was told MANY times that doing what he did could kill someone.It doesn't get any clearer than that.
  2. bill hilly
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    bill hilly - March 21, 2011 12:56 pm
    Landwalrus, you're getting a little personal and pompus for me. It sounds like you should chat with the authorities investigating this accident. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
  3. MsRandom
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    MsRandom - March 21, 2011 12:42 pm
    I have family members that are loggers. My grandfather lost his toes while logging because the tree fell the wrong way, I also lost a young cousin (19) who was killed when the tree fell the wrong way and he wasn't able to move quick enough. The man who cut down the tree was my uncle. Imagine living with that. Accidents happen, they're unforeseen. My family members have been loggers for generations and accidents happen whether or not your a novice or amateur logger.

    My heart goes out to both families especially the ones who suffered the lost. Not all the details of this tragedy have been released and everyone wants to crucify Vernum. He may have been a little cocky not thinking thoroughly about the worst consequences imaginable.

    I'm not saying he's not at fault, he had poor judgment and made a serious mistake. The article stated he continued to cut the tree after the fact, which is implying a "misdeed", but maybe he continued in attempt to help this man.

  4. landwalrus
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    landwalrus - March 20, 2011 9:24 am
    Milfighter normally i would agree with you but not in this case. First off this guy is no proffessional logger, He was not supposed to be cutting there. 2nd there were no warning signs, i know this to be fact because i rode the same trail an hour after the incident and ride it almost everyday. Who in there right mind drops a tree across a trail where snowmobiles can legally travel 55mph. This is not the only time this guy has done this. he has been warned on more than one occasion and his attitude was who cares i got insurance. Can you imagine what would happen if this guy dropped a tree on a blind corner on a 55 mph road and he killed someone, well that is excactly what he did here and just because he killed a snowmobiler instead of a motorist the consaquences should not be any less severe! He needs to be tought a lesson with about 10 years behind bars.
  5. MilFighter
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    MilFighter - March 19, 2011 12:32 am
    Is there anything that is just an accident any more? I mean, I'm sure this logger is so good that he predicted time and speed to cut that tree at the exact time that the snowmobile was going to be in the kill zone. Really!!!! Come on, this was an accident and nothing more. My family has had snowmobiles my whole life in upstate, I know how territorial they are about there trails, so for it to be suggested that the ongoing problems with the logger were his and his alone is laughable.
  6. jojo1103
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    jojo1103 - March 17, 2011 7:56 pm
    also just saying i agree with ya.on the comment before.jojo1103 said: "lets not hang this man out to dry before anything has been fully investigated."

  7. jojo1103
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    jojo1103 - March 17, 2011 3:03 pm
    How does that make you any better to comment that way, show's how much common sense you have,none.
  8. jojo1103
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    jojo1103 - March 17, 2011 2:31 pm
    lets not hang this man out to dry before anything has been fully investigated.Luzerne Giant said: "How do you know they weren't in position to flag this guy down? Maybe just maybe he was going to fast to stop in time.A lot of people pay no attention to the posted trail speed limit signs. I did talk to one person who rides in this area and they said there signs posted when there is logging going on in this area. Why don't we just wait for the investigation to conclude before we jump to conclusions. I'm not saying the logger's guilty and I'm not saying he's inocent either."

  9. neverforget911
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    neverforget911 - March 17, 2011 1:06 pm
    If I am not mistaken, in order to use the snowmobile trails in that area you must have a registered and insured sled, no different than on a highway. The trail system is maintained for that purpose and has legal right of ways that allow its use. So for all practical proposes his is a legal thoroughfare and/or highway. The logger felled a tree across a road without adequately controlling traffic first, even after he had been warned. The logger is at fault, period.
  10. derringer
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    derringer - March 17, 2011 12:09 pm
    Luzerne Giant- Really? Are you serious? So what if he was speeding! This was a very easily preventable accident! Let's see how about DON'T DROP TREES ACCROSS THE TRAIL...WOW! PICK ANOTHER ONE TO CUT! Safety has no excuses in my book!
  11. Luzerne Giant
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    Luzerne Giant - March 17, 2011 9:04 am
    How do you know they weren't in position to flag this guy down? Maybe just maybe he was going to fast to stop in time.
    A lot of people pay no attention to the posted trail speed limit signs. I did talk to one person who rides in this area and they said there signs posted when there is logging going on in this area. Why don't we just wait for the investigation to conclude before we jump to conclusions. I'm not saying the logger's guilty and I'm not saying he's inocent either.
  12. EnoughIsEnough
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    EnoughIsEnough - March 17, 2011 7:31 am
    If he was warned and if he continued to log where he wasn't allowed he should be charged with manslaughter at the minimum.
  13. jojo1103
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    jojo1103 - March 17, 2011 7:25 am
    Horrible accident and I can't imagine what either family is going through.The paper has a way of bending the truth,but Whatever gets their paper to sell right?I don't believe anybody kept cutting trees,in fact i'm sure the logger was doing all in his power to keep this man alive.But I don't read that in this article.You don't read how the logger has to deal with the thought of taking this man's life and carry it with him.To the family of the Gary clark,so sorry that you have to deal with this and that a father,husband,brother,son was taking from you.One day I hope your willing to find peace in your hearts and forgivness and understanding.
  14. Doubter_2
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    Doubter_2 - March 17, 2011 5:39 am
    You get the feeling he was using the snowmobile trail for easier access and exit for his logging activity. Certainly not appropriate.
  15. mountianman
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    mountianman - March 17, 2011 4:53 am
    One word,lake luzerne oops thats two words,but seriously common sense is such a hard thing for some people and now a innocent suffers.
  16. oldman
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    oldman - March 16, 2011 11:02 pm
    There are a lot of factors that may have contributed to this tragedy. It's hard to hear a snowmobile approaching over a chainsaw, maybe they were watching the guy with the saw instead of the trail and didn't see him until it was too late.Maybe it was near a curve in the trail. It's hard to say.
  17. sparkler1964
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    sparkler1964 - March 16, 2011 10:50 pm
    swankodaddy said: "Don't worry. Now that it's in the paper, you can bet the DA will seek indictment."
    Sounds like negligent homicide at the least.
  18. Sceptical Mass
    Report Abuse
    Sceptical Mass - March 16, 2011 9:50 pm
    So let's get this straight: there were three people in the cutting crew, one to cut the tree down, and two others, one of which should have been flagging potential snowmobiles coming from one direction, and one doing the same thing from the other direction, on the trail ADJACENT to the tree they were cutting, and they didn't take this easy and obvious safety procedure?

    Why not?

    They waved to stop the guy after they realized they should have been stopping traffic all along, probably panic stricken, and were obviously way out of the proper position to stop anyone.

    And now a man is dead because of sheer thoughtlessness and a total lack of common sense and decency. If there isn't a law against it there sure should be.
  19. bainite
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    bainite - March 16, 2011 9:14 pm
    Where's Bud York in all this? I expect him to suggest people not ride snowmobiles in the woods...too dangerous.
  20. lloommiiss
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    lloommiiss - March 16, 2011 4:47 pm
    Why wasn't there warning signs posted " Logging Ahead ",or some type of tape ?
  21. swankodaddy
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    swankodaddy - March 16, 2011 4:08 pm
    Don't worry. Now that it's in the paper, you can bet the DA will seek indictment.

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