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Jet Ski operator fined for fatal collision on North Dakota lake

MINOT, N.D. -- A 41-year-old Minot man has entered a guilty plea and must pay fines and fees totaling $475 on a misdemeanor B charge following a personal watercraft crash that killed a 10-year-old girl and injured another.

Dean Bartsch was charged with prohibited operation of personal watercraft. Bartsch entered the plea last week in South Central District Court in Washburn. The B misdemeanor carried a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Bartsch was the operator of a 2003 Kawasaki Jet Ski involved in a June 9 accident at Strawberry Lake in McLean County. Haley Sundsbak, 10, of Des Lacs was killed and 10-year-old Abby Mikkelson of Minot had extensive injuries. Bartsch had been thrown off the watercraft approximately 150 yards from where it made contact with the two girls who were being pulled on a tube behind a boat.

The watercraft was equipped with a kill switch designed to shut off the motor if the operator is thrown from the machine. However, as Bartsch told investigators, he did not have the lanyard attached to his person but rather was holding it in his hand when he was ejected.

State statute requires the lanyard-type engine cutoff switch to be attached to the individual, clothing or personal flotation device of the operator, if the personal watercraft has that factory device.

The Jet Ski was estimated to be traveling from 25 to 75 mph at the time it struck the girls. Testing of the Jet Ski by certified technicians following the accident revealed it had a “high idle and sticky throttle.”

The watercraft was owned by Jason Fuller of Strawberry Lake.

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