Minn. groom-to-be released from hospital after Wis. boat crashby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A Minnesota man injured in a Wisconsin boat crash that killed four people on the eve of his scheduled wedding has been released from the hospital.
Leo Pohl of Buffalo, Minn., was treated at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire and released Saturday, spokesman Paul Meznarich said.
Pohl was supposed to be married Saturday. He, his brother Luke Pohl and four friends were on a Princecraft boat on the Chippewa River Friday night that collided with a Larson speedboat carrying two people.
The speedboat's operator, 50-year-old Mark Michels of Eau Claire, Wis., was killed, along with three people on the Princecraft: Luke Pohl, 25, of Elk River; Matthew Simonson, 28, of Brooklyn Park and Matthew Overhulser, 28, of Eau Claire, Wis.
The Chippewa County Sheriff's Office said the six people on the Princecraft, a pontoon-like boat, were all part of the wedding party.
The boat's operator, 56-year-old Robert Romanshek of Eau Claire, Wis., was arrested Friday but later released, undersheriff Eugene Gutsch said. Gutsch said an investigation was expected to take months.
According to court documents, Romanshek had no recent alcohol-related convictions, but Michels, the speedboat operator, had been convicted of operating while under the influence as recently as 2007.
Authorities will send a completed crash investigation report to the Chippewa County District Attorney, who will determine whether any criminal charges are filed.
At least one person remained in the hospital: Carol Oller, 49, of Hayward, Wis., was a passenger in the speedboat. She had been upgraded to good condition at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Meznarich said.
Greg Voight, the sixth person on the Princecraft, was taken to Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire on Friday but was then transferred to another area hospital, Meznarich said. His condition wasn't immediately known.
The crash happened at about 9:45 p.m. on the Chippewa River near the Town of Wheaton and Village of Lake Hallie. The area is just a few miles north of Eau Claire, Wis.
Gutsch said both boats were moving at the time of the crash, and none of the people on either boat were wearing life jackets. Michels, the speedboat operator, died on impact and the boat spun out of control and ran aground, Gutsch said. Overhulser was found dead on the Princecraft, which had traveled about a half mile downstream, investigators said.
Autopsies are being conducted on three of the four people killed, Chippewa County coroner Ronald Patten said Monday. An autopsy wasn't needed on the fourth because severe head trauma was the obvious cause of death.
Gutsch said toxicology tests will be done to determine whether any of the victims had been drinking before the crash.
The bodies of Simonson and Luke Pohl weren't found until Sunday. A kayaker found Pohl's body downstream from the crash site, and search teams found Simonson's body near the crash site, Gutsch said.
Both boats have been transported to a secure storage area as evidence. Investigators from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin State Patrol will try to determine what happened.
"There's a specialized team within the Wisconsin State Patrol that do these kind of reconstructions. Mainly they do them for traffic crashes and those type of things, but they're also utilized in boat crashes," Gutsch said. "The techniques are basically the same except it's on the water instead of on the highway."
Gutsch said the crash happened in a popular boating area. Besides the Chippewa River, boating is popular on Lake Wissota and the Holcombe Flowage.
"The severity of a boat crash such as this one is fairly uncommon; however, our county is a very large recreational area," he said.
Gutsch said to his knowledge, the wedding did not happen as scheduled.
"It's a very tragic event all the way around," he told The Associated Press. "Not only because there are four fatalities, but the circumstances of one boat containing a wedding party, and the next day is supposed to be the most joyous day of one's life — and this, I'm sure, has changed that forever."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)