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Mass. family stranded for 7 hours in N.H. after man follows car GPS onto snowmobile trail

A man from Burlington, Mass., and his family were rescued by officials in New Hampshire early Sunday after their minivan got stuck in a ditch on a snowmobile trail, stranding them for seven hours, authorities said.

Dattu Prajapati, 45, another adult, and five children were leaving the Bretton Woods Ski Area and were headed to Gorham, N.H., on Saturday night when their GPS led them to a snowmobile trail off of Base Station Road, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Division said in a statement Sunday. Officials said there were signs indicating the road becomes a snowmobile trail in the winter.

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After entering Jefferson Notch Road, Prajapati couldn’t find a place to turn around. He drove for several miles until he was able to do so, but got stuck after sliding off the icy trail on his way out, officials said.

Prajapati didn’t have cellphone service, but used the roadside assistance feature in his minivan to contact a towing company.

“The feature worked, but due to the location it took several hours to get someone from a tow company to locate the vehicle,” officials said.

New Hampshire Fish and Game, Twin Mountain Fire and Rescue, and New Hampshire State Police got involved in the search for the minivan shortly before midnight, the statement said.

“Once the vehicle was located, it was immediately apparent that it would take specialized off road equipment to make a recovery,” officials said.

A conservation officer used a snowmobile to shuttle the family back to Base Station Road, according to the statement, and the minivan was freed with a tracked ATV and its winch, as well as with the help of a tow company employee.

“By 2:00 AM, the family and vehicle were all safely on a maintained road and ready to get to their hotel rooms in Gorham,” the statement said. “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.”

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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,” the statement said.


Jordan Frias can be reached at jordan.frias@globe.com.