Conservation Officer Matthew Holmes
December 30, 2019
Crawford’s Purchase, NH – In the early morning hours of Sunday, December 29, 2019, personnel from multiple agencies responded to the Jefferson Notch Road snowmobile trail to assist a family whose vehicle had become stuck miles in from a maintained road.
Shortly before midnight on Saturday, December 28, personnel from New Hampshire Fish and Game, Twin Mountain Fire and Rescue, and New Hampshire State Police were called upon to assist two adults and five children who were stranded in a minivan 2.4 miles up Jefferson Notch Road from Base Station Road. Authorities were advised that no one was injured, but that the calling party was asking for assistance to get everyone to safety as their vehicle was stuck on the side of the road and they were running out of fuel.
Upon arrival, Twin Mountain Fire Department used a tracked ATV to access the scene and to begin shuttling people from the scene back to Base Station Road. A Conservation Officer was also able to utilize his snowmobile to shuttle people back to Base Station Road, where they were attended to by New Hampshire State Troopers. After making sure all of the children and one adult were out of the woods, personnel worked with the tracked ATV and its winch to free the vehicle, which had gone off of the trail and become stuck in a ditch. With the help of an employee from a responding tow company, efforts were eventually successful to free the involved vehicle and drive it back down to Base Station Road. By 2:00 a.m., the family and vehicle were all safely on a maintained road and ready to get to their hotel rooms in Gorham.
Investigation into this incident revealed that the vehicle’s operator, Dattu Prajapati, 45, of Burlington, MA, had been following his GPS after leaving the Bretton Woods Ski Area. The GPS had indicated that he should take Jefferson Notch Road back to Gorham. After entering the road, Prajapati could not find a place to turn around. Driving in several miles, he was eventually able to turn around but got stuck after sliding off of the icy trail on his way back out.
Having no cell coverage at the scene, Prajapati utilized his vehicle’s roadside assistance feature to seek help. The feature worked, but due to the location it took several hours to get someone from a towing company to locate the vehicle. Once the vehicle was located, it was immediately apparent that it would take specialized off-road equipment to make a recovery. In all, the family was stranded for nearly 7 hours from start to finish and required extra fuel to ensure that their vehicle made it out of the woods.
Jefferson Notch Road, like many seasonal New Hampshire roads, becomes a snowmobile trail during the winter. Due to signage indicating such at the beginning of the road, Prajapati was cited for operating a conventional vehicle on a snowmobile trail. Situations similar to this one have played out at this location many times before, leaving authorities and local snowmobile clubs constantly trying to alert motorists to the seasonal changes in vehicle use.