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Seven killed so far in 2009 Wisconsin snowmobile accidents

A Racine County couple and a pair of college students from Minnesota are among seven people killed in Wisconsin snowmobile accidents so far in 2009, pushing the season's fatality toll to 13, or more than half the number of deaths last winter.

Two of the deaths occurred in Douglas County.

The seven deaths happened in the first three days of the year. There were 25 snowmobiling deaths in Wisconsin last season.

A memorial service is being planned Saturday for Nathan and Jennifer Kender, both 26, of Caledonia, Wis. They died along with an Illinois man when their snowmobiles crashed on a trail in the Vilas County town of Arbor Vitae, Wis., on Saturday about 10 a.m.

The Kenders were on a snowmobile that collided with the one ridden by Scott Sumoski, 39, of South Elgin, Ill. Authorities said all three died at the scene.

The state Department of Natural Resources said the snowmobiles collided nearly head-on. The accident remains under investigation.

In Caledonia, neighbor Tom Landreman said the Kenders had lived there less than a year.

"They were really, really a nice couple," he said. "It's such a shame."

Another multiple fatality accident happened on Thursday about 11:50 p.m. in Douglas County and killed two University of Wisconsin-Stout students from Minnesota.

The DNR said the two were on a snowmobile that was going across a lake when it hit the shoreline, went airborne and hit a dock that had been pulled onto the shore.

The driver, Marty Platek, and rider Caitlin Higgins were killed instantly.

The university said Platek, 20, of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., was studying business administration and played defensive back for the Blue Devils football team.

Higgins, 21, of Little Canada, Minn., was majoring in apparel design. Both were juniors.

Higgins' funeral was scheduled today at St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ in St. Paul. Platek's funeral was scheduled Wednesday at the Church of St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights.

The other fatalities:

- In Monroe County, sheriff's officials said Christopher Hanifl, 38, of St. Charles, Ill., was killed when his snowmobile left a trail and hit a tree in the town of Little Falls about 1:25 a.m. Saturday.

- In Price County, the sheriff's department said Danny Kolnik, 65, of Phillips, Wis., was killed when his snowmobile collided with another about 2 p.m. Saturday at the crest of a hill in the town of Elk.