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Oswego County snowmobiler killed by a CSX train while trying to free his sled

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LACONA — A 55-year-old Lacona man was hit and killed by a CSX freight train late Sunday while trying to free his snowmobile from the railroad tracks between the Harwood Drive and Miller Road crossings.

State police said Bernard C. Joss was pronounced dead at the scene.

Troopers said that the conductor of the 76-car train spotted the man from afar, applied emergency brakes and blew an air horn for an “extended period of time” to warn him, but that Mr. Joss continued to try to free his snowmobile.

State police arrived at the scene at 11:09 p.m. Sunday.

Troopers were assisted by the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, CSX Railroad police and the Lacona Fire Department.

The investigation, including into Mr. Joss’s whereabouts before the accident, is ongoing.

State police caution that while it is never advisable to operate a snowmobile on railroad tracks, it also is illegal under state Parks and Recreation Law, according to Jack L. Keller, Oneida Troop D public information officer. He said other than when crossing tracks to connect to a snowmobile trail, snowmobilers are forbidden from following tracks, facing a $100 fine for each incident.

Trooper Keller said the two primary causes of snowmobile accidents are excessive speed and alcohol use. He said the top speed for a sled is 55 mph, although nighttime speeds should not exceed 40 mph. He also said snowmobilers should not ride alone, providing for extra help should a machine become disabled.

Other tips include wearing proper safety equipment, staying to the right on trails, particularly on hills and curves, using caution when riding on frozen lakes and rivers and immediately reporting a personal-injury accident or one exceeding $1,000 in property damage to law enforcement.

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