The man who drove his jet ski into the side of a bass boat on Father’s Day evening in 2010, killing an 18-year-old Hollandale man and injuring two others, has been sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay more than $16,000 in costs by a Columbia County Circuit Court judge.
Conservation Warden Supervisor Dave Holmes of Poynette, who responded to the scene, said the case provides valuable safety lessons to remember as the 2012 boating season approaches. The accident occurred on June 20, 2010, on the Wisconsin River, north of Lake Wisconsin, in Columbia County.
Adam Walsh of Dane, who was 21 at the time of the fatal accident, was sentenced on February 24. Walsh initially faced a felony charge of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. However, the felony charge was dismissed on a prosecutor’s motion. Instead, Walsh was convicted and sentenced for three misdemeanors for negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Walsh pleaded no contest to the three charges.
Walsh will serve two years of probation. According to the court, if Walsh completes the probation without problem, he may request to have the charges expunged from his record. Walsh also was ordered to pay $16,144.69 in restitution and restitution charges plus $433 in court costs.
Killed was Joseph C. Pfuhl, 18, of Hollandale, who was a passenger in the boat. Injured was his mother, Cheryl Massey and Kelly Kopmeyer of Poynette, then 17. The bass boat was driven by the victim’s brother, Christopher Pfuhl, then 21. According to witnesses, the bass boat was being operated at slow speeds when the accident occurred. Christopher Pfuhl received minor injuries which did not require hospitalization while the other two passengers were treated at hospital.
“Adam Walsh said he couldn’t see the boat he struck because he was traveling into the setting sun,” Holmes said. The wreck occurred between 7:30 and 7:45 p.m.
Holmes and Conservation Warden Paul Nadolski of Columbia County investigated the sunlight conditions claimed by Walsh in the days immediately after the wreck. “No doubt that the sun probably played a large factor in the accident. Not only would you be looking into the setting sun, but there also is the reflection of that sun on the water,” Nadolski said.
None of the boat occupants were wearing personal flotation devices – also known as life preservers. “All four were ejected from the boat. If they would have had PDFs on, they wouldn’t have had to swim to survive,” Nadolski said. Walsh was wearing a PFD. “Whenever you are in a boat, you should be wearing a PFD.”
Also, both operators – Walsh and Christopher Pfuhl – were required by their ages to have completed a boating education course. “Neither had completed safety courses at the time of the accident. The factors that contributed to this accident are stressed in the course,” Nadolski said.
Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Troy Cross emphasized the importance of completing a boating safety course. “People should understand that this is a recreational vehicle and, yes, they can be fun. However, you still have to take safety precautions and have the proper training prior to operation,” he said.
Walsh was operating his jet ski too fast for the conditions, Holmes said. “Getting an education about the importance of not operating too fast for conditions – in this case, operating faster than he could see in front of him – may have prevented the accident. Adam Walsh would have heard in the course about not overdriving what you can see in front of you.”