Tristen Breipenfeldt’s wild ride
Snowmobile runs amok at camp for blind
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Camp organizers and an emergency medical
technician gather around Jolynn Page, 16, after an errant snowmobile hit
her at the Wood River Lions Club camp for the blind Saturday. Express
photo by David Seelig
Mary Mortensen, a fair-skinned teacher who is visually
impaired, was inside the dark, windowless lodge explaining to a reporter
how the annual Wood River Lions Club winter camp for the blind near
Prairie Creek is a great chance for blind teenagers to get out and
experience the world since, generally, they live sheltered lives.
That’s when a 120-horsepower snowmobile revved out of
control, sped past a bench full of blind students, sent its blind driver
reeling and plowed into another blind student before bogging down beside
All morning, about a dozen snowmobilers from the Sawtooth
Snowmobile Club had been loading the students onto their machines and
roaring around the landscape just for the thrill of it. But when a
teenager named Tristen Breipenfeldt got on a machine alone and
accidentally grabbed the throttle, all that immediately stopped.
Outside, Jolynn Page, 16, lay flattened in the snow behind
the portable toilet she had just exited. Breipenfeldt, wearing a red
helmet, disentangled herself from the woodpile where she had just been
thrown, Page tentatively moved an arm across her torso and moaned.
"It hurts," she said.
Instantly, a swarm of people, including an emergency
medical technician, who had volunteered his time for such emergencies,
gathered around Page, while others wandered around asking questions about
what had just happened.
Breipenfeldt removed her helmet and explained to anyone
who would listen, "He didn’t tell me not to push the throttle all
For the next hour-and-a-half, camp organizers worked to
strap Page and another student involved in the accident, Rachel Clark, 16,
to plywood boards so they could be taken by sled to an ambulance waiting
on Highway 75.
On Monday, Bill Nelson, a Lions Club member, reported that
Page and Clark had been treated and released with only bumps and bruises
from St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center after spending several hours
in the emergency room.
Those were the events that dominated much of the Lions
Club winter camp for the blind Saturday, a planned fun day to be devoted
to cross-country skiing, tubing and snowmobile rides for the 35 blind
teenagers who had gathered from all over the state at the 4H camp about 15
miles north of Ketchum.
The accident dampened the spirits of most. Some wept and
consoled each other. Some went indoors and sat silently around the fire.
Snowmobile club member Carl Cutler gathered his peers for an impromptu
"Let’s not let it get `em in a slump and let it
ruin their day," he said.
On Monday, Vicki Roper, the director of the Idaho School
for the Deaf and the Blind’s Outreach program said, "So far,
parents have been very understanding and reasonable" about the
She said that despite the accident, campers were dancing
to bluegrass music later in the evening and performing for each other in a
Clark danced, too, she said, but "Jolynn was too
sore. She just needed Tylenol. I’m sure her contusions were just
starting to be felt."
Roper said the accident looked more spectacular than it
was—"but it was scary. We’re certainly not going to take it