Grand jury called in West Okoboji fatal boat crash

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A Dickinson County grand jury will be convened to determine what, if any, indictable charges should be filed regarding a fatal boat crash, which occurred on West Lake Okoboji last month.

The DNR has completed its investigation of the Monday, August 2 incident and has provided the information to Dickinson County Attorney Rosalise Olson who has decided to call a grand jury to consider the case.

The incident, which occurred at approximately 10 a.m., claimed the life of six-year-old Kathryn Mills of Johnston. She was a passenger in a boat being operated by her grandfather Rodney Burgeson, 64, of Spirit Lake. Also in the boat being operated by Burgeson were Lorna Burgeson, 64, of Spirit Lake, Robyn Mills, 42, Elizabeth Mills, 11, and Andrew Mills, 9, all of Johnston; and Brooke Burgeson, 11, of Apple Valley, Minnesota.

The Burgeson boat was stopped on the water near Manhattan Beach when a Rinker boat operated by Merlyn DeBoer, 60, of Spirit Lake, struck the Burgeson boat on the port side. Based on statements, DeBoer's boat was estimated to be traveling approximately 35-40 miles per hour. The passengers in the boat driven by DeBoer included Kay McKormick, 52, and Abby McCormick, 12, and Taylor Maurer, 12. They are all from Sioux City.

Both Maurer and Andrew Mills were thrown in the water after the impact. All of the children in the Burgeson boat were wearing personal flotation devices, but no one else involved in the incident was wearing theirs.

Neither boat sank and the boat operated by DeBoer was able to get to shore under its own power. Maurer was rescued from the water by a fisherman who also towed the Burgeson boat, which sustained substantial damage, to shore. Andrew Mills was rescued by his mother, Robyn.

Weather conditions at the time of the incident were clear skies, bright sunshine and light winds. The boat traffic was described as light.

Both boating operators agreed to provide blood alcohol specimens to determine alcohol levels. Merlyn DeBoer had a blood alcohol level of 0.0 and Rodney Burgeson had a blood alcohol level of .086.

Operating a motorboat while intoxicated charges are possible when a person is judged to be impaired by alcohol or drugs, when a controlled substance is measured, or when blood alcohol level reaches .10 or more.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: