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Charges still possible in fatal Wisconsin boat accident

When we think of drunk driving, it is usually in the context of automobile traffic on the American road system. In fact, the vast majority of drunk driving accidents take place there, and involve trucks, cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles. However, there are also a number of alcohol-related accidents In Wisconsin and across the nation every year that fall under the category of ‘boating while intoxicated.’ These incidents may differ from automobile crashes in the type of vehicle involved, but operators who pilot their watercraft after drinking are just as dangerous as drunk drivers who get behind the wheel and cause an accident.

A fatal boat crash took place in late July 2011 on Wisconsin’s Chippewa River in Lake Hallie. Documents containing statements made by crash survivors and those who aided in the rescue attempt were just released. The crash, which was deemed by at least one prosecutor as entirely preventable, took the lives of four people and injured four more. Investigators believe that both boats were operating at full throttle at the time of impact, with speeds exceeding 30 miles per hour.

The operator of one of the boats, who was also among the injured, was arrested and charged with operating a motorboat while under the influence of intoxicants. His blood-alcohol level tested at 0.084, and he told the responding officers that he had consumed more than five ounces of whiskey in the hours leading up to the crash. In addition, the operator of the other boat, who died in the crash, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.127 percent. The legal limit in Wisconsin is 0.08 percent.

Statements made by those involved in the crash differ, and while the surviving operator insists that his craft was struck by the other boat, the investigation of both boats suggests that it was the other boat that was hit. As of yet, no charges have been filed in the case, although the Chippewa County district attorney will be making a decision concerning prosecution in the coming months.

The families of those who were killed in the fatal boat accident certainly have the right to pursue wrongful death suits against any party or parties deemed responsible. In addition, those who were injured may file suit through the Wisconsin courts to recover medical debt, lost wages or a range of other compensatory damages alleged to have been caused by the negligence of another party.

Source: The Chippewa Herald, “Man: Fatal boat crash sounded like train,” Rod Stetzer, July 17, 2012

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