by sean i. mills Sentinel staff writer
FORMER FOOTBALL STAR DIES ¿ Former Rome Free Academy linebacker Daniel J. Secor was killed Saturday night in a snowmobile accident in the Town of Annsville. This team picture was taken in August 2010 when he was a senior.
SECOR REMEMBERED ¿ Counselors are on hand this morning at Rome Free Academy after the death of 2011 graduate Daniel J. Secor. The teen was both a football player and a wrestler. He is wearing wrestling medals in this 2008 file photo.
TWO MILES IN ¿ Snowmobilers use seasonal Sullivan Road as a trail. The sled accident that claimed the life of a young Rome man happened two miles north of this entry point, off Sheehan Road. Sheehan Road runs east-west in the Town of Annsville off of Coal Hill Road, about six miles north of Taberg. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)
TOWN OF ANNSVILLE — A former Rome Free Academy football all-star was killed Saturday night when he was thrown from his snowmobile on a curve on the groomed Sullivan Road trail.
The death of Daniel J. Secor was the first snowmobile fatality in Oneida County this year.
Calling hours for Secor will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Barry Funeral Home, at 807 W. Chestnut St. The funeral will be at 10:15 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home, followed by services at 11 a.m. in St. Peter’s Church. Burial will be at Rome Cemetery.
Meanwhile, two other snowmobilers were killed in separate accidents in adjacent Lewis County, during what authorities said was the first big sled weekend of the season.
"It’s a very tragic series of events that occurred over the weekend," said State Police Captain Francis S. Coots. "Obviously coincidental, but I don’t think it was anything more than that."
Secor, age 18, of 8288 Meadows Road, Rome, was riding southbound with a small group on Trail C4 when state police said he lost control of his 2011 Polaris sled at about 8:30 p.m. Troopers said Secor was thrown off his snowmobile and into a tree.
"We know he lost control, but we don’t know what caused him to lose control," Coots explained. "He did strike a tree, thrown off into the tree. He was wearing safety equipment."
Secor’s group, which included some family members, quickly halted and called 9-1-1 at 8:36 p.m. Authorities said the crash occurred on the seasonal Sullivan Road, which is used primarily as a snowmobile trail in the winter. State troopers and rescue personnel from the Taberg Volunteer Fire Department staged their equipment on Sheehan Road, and other snowmobilers transported them about two miles north into the woods to the accident scene.
Trooper Scott Russell was one of the first on the scene, and Coots said Russell immediately began CPR on Secor.
"They attached the automatic electric defibrillator, and that said no shock should be given, so they tried CPR," Coots explained.
The Taberg personnel brought their snowmobile rescue sled to the scene, pulled behind a commandeered snowmobile from one of the other riders, officials said. Secor was brought back to Sheehan Road to a waiting AmCare Ambulance, then was transported to Rome Memorial Hospital.
Secor was pronounced dead at the hospital some time after arrival.
The Air One helicopter from the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office responded to the accident scene, but authorities said it was not used because Secor was in the middle of CPR.
"We’re investigating," said Coots. "When a person loses control like that on a snowmobile trail, we certainly have to consider speed to be a factor."
Coots said they are also looking to see if there was something in the path that may have caused Secor to lose control.
"The trails were well-groomed, it was on a curve on a hill," said Taberg Assistant Fire Chief Robert Bartholomay. "The weather wasn’t bad at all." He said it was cold but clear.
Secor is survived by his parents, Richard and Jacqueline Secor, as well as an older brother Shawn, of Verona.
Secor was a 2011 graduate of Rome Free Academy. He was a middle linebacker for the Black Knights football team, and was named to the Section III Class AA-1 first-team all-star team his senior year. Secor was also a member of the wrestling team.
"He was a hard-worker, and certainly represented our school well on the athletic field," said RFA Principal Mark Benson this morning. "We hate to see any tragedy like this, and it’s especially tough when one is so close to home like this one was."
Benson said school guidance counselors were on hand this morning to help the students.
"I know that a lot of the kids are talking about it...and are mourning, as would be expected," Benson said. "And we’re here to assist them in any way, if they need us."
Secor was one of three snowmobilers killed this past weekend in separate crashes. Two men were killed in Lewis County.
¿ Sheriff’s deputies said Daniel M. Leonard, 34, of Berkshire in Tioga County, was southbound in the Town of Pinckney at 2:36 a.m. Sunday when he lost control of his 2009 Polaris sled on a curve and went off the east side of the trail. Deputies said Leonard was thrown off his sled and into a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities said that unsafe speed was a factor in Leonard’s crash.
"The trails were in good shape," said Lewis County Undersheriff Jim M. Monnat. "It was a big turnout" in Lewis County this weekend. "This was the best weekend so far" with enough snow "to make the trails decent." The Lewis County Sheriff’s Snowmobile Patrol was also out on the trails.
¿ State police said Edward A. Kohles, 56, of Canastota, was traveling southeast on Trail C4A, south of Kraeger Road in the Town of West Turin. Troopers said Kohles lost control of his 2011 Polaris at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and he fell off his sled onto the trail.
Kohles was then struck by another snowmobiler coming from the opposite direction, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Other snowmobile accidents were reported in Forestport at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday and in Osceola in Lewis County at about 1 p.m. Sunday. Information on those accidents was not available as of noon.
Jim Rolf, state Snowmobile Associate trail coordinator, said the lake effect snow last week made this past weekend the first good weekend of the season for snowmobilers in the area.
"Everybody is itching to ride their sleds," Rolf stated. So far, thanks to the warm December, this season has been "absolutely the worst that could be expected, because nobody has been able to ride."
Rolf said there was likely a large number of sledders out on the trails, even though not every trail is open in Oneida County. Some trails do not yet have snow on them at all. It is up to the individual snowmobile clubs on whether or not they will open their trails.
Rolf said the T.C. Riders club was grooming the trails in Annsville on Friday and Saturday, and that those trails were open.
"We urge everyone to use common sense," Rolf stated. "And think about safety while they’re on the trails."
In 2011, there were at least eight fatal snowmobile accidents in Oneida, Lewis and Herkimer counties. The fatal accidents all occurred in January and February 2011.