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Snowmobiler dies after striking tree – the first fatality this winter

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A central Minnesota man died after losing control of a snowmobile and hitting a tree – the first snowmobile fatality of this winter.

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The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office said in a press release 49-year-old Richard Rathman, of Merrifield, was operating a snowmobile on his property around 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The sheriff's office says he lost control and struck a tree.

Rathman did not have a helmet on at the time. He was airlifted to North Memorial Hospital where he later died.

Julie Forster with the DNR told BringMeTheNews it is the first snowmobiling fatality of the season.

The Minnesota DNR recorded four snowmobile fatalities in the 2014-15 winter. Three of them involved striking a "fixed object," and all four involved alcohol (though one is noted as not enough to cause impairment).

The snowmobile trail season opened Dec. 1, and officials at the time noted the lack of snow so far this winter means most are not ready yet.

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