More than three months after breaking his leg while on snowmobile patrol, Fish and Game Conservation Officer Chris Egan remains on the mend, saying he is overwhelmed by the support of his local community in Pittsburg and viewers of the “North Woods Law” reality show.
On Jan. 18, Egan was headed south on Trail 139 in Pittsburg, not far from the First Connecticut Lake Dam, when he saw two riders headed north about 5:20 p.m. One had an exhaust that sounded as if it had been illegally modified, while the second rider’s registration sticker was expired.
Egan, 49, turned his sled around and began to gain ground on the pair, when, because of the bumpy trail, his right foot came off the running board and touched the ground.
Instantly, Egan fractured his tibia — which required surgery and the installation of an intramedullary nail in the bone and five screws – while also coming off his snowmobile.
“And for a few seconds, two to three, I thought ‘I’ll just get back on my machine and catch up to those guys,’” but ominous sounds from the spiral fracture convinced him otherwise “and I specifically remember saying ‘This is not good.’”
What also wasn’t good was that Egan was alone on a dark trail and a distance away from his sled. Remembering what had happened to his Fish and Game colleague Matt Holmes months before, Egan skootched himself off the trail to avoid being run over by other riders.
Holmes, who suffered eight broken ribs, returned to duty last fall. The June 13, 2020, incident during a speed-enforcement patrol in Dummer was recorded by a video crew from “North Woods Law,” and remains under investigation.
While Egan didn’t have a “North Woods Law” team with him, he did have his portable radio, which he used to call Colebrook dispatch. When rescuers arrived, they transported Egan to Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook where he was told of the severity of his injuries. He had surgery the next day at Concord Hospital.
Egan said he is still feeling the after-effects of his injury and is working to get strength back in both his legs with physical therapy.
A native of Chichester and a 1989 graduate of Pembroke Academy, Egan earned a degree in wildlife management from the University of New Hampshire. He was sworn in as a conservation officer in 1999.
Egan said his accident has been an epiphany.
“It did open my eyes to thinking about other people because of such an outpouring of support from my community (in his hometown of Pittsburg) and from the hundreds of people who knew me, or the department because they watch the show (Animal Planet’s “North Woods Law”).”
“I realized that there are a lot of people who get hurt, with a similar injury or worse,” said Egan, “and they don’t have anybody to help them.”
To “pay forward the kindness I’ve been shown,” Egan helped launch a GoFundMe campaign to benefit Paxton Williams, an 18-year old woman from New Boston who has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy.
Years ago, at an Easters Seals snowmobile event in the North Country, Egan met Paxton and they “clicked,” he said, and have remained in touch.
The GoFundMe campaign is raising money to purchase Williams a wheelchair-accessible van. Almost $14,000 of the $65,000 goal has been met
“I’d been working on this benefit long before I got hurt,” said Egan, but the injury re-focused his energy and also gave him the chance to get out of the limelight.
“If people want to help me,” said Egan, “help me raise money for a van for her.”
To make a donation, go to https://gofund.me/00b9c0f4.