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No charges in the death of windsurfer struck by UW Lake Safety boat on Lake Mendota, District Attorney says

June 2, 2018 GMT

No criminal charges will be filed against the operators of a UW Lake Safety boat that struck and killed a windsurfer on Lake Mendota last year, the Dane County District Attorney’s office announced Friday.

The District Attorney’s Office said there is no criminal liability on the part of the boat’s driver or the two other staffers on the boat in the death of Yu Chen.

“The determination of this office that no criminal liability is possible is clearly warranted based on the consistent and extensive evidence that has been assembled since the critical incident,” the office said in a statement.

Yu Chen, a skilled windsurfer and instructor at Hoofer Sailing Club since 2012, was windsurfing on Lake Mendota on May 31, 2017.

The driver of the boat had worked with the lifesaving program since 2013 and had about 30 hours of operation time on the boat. The driver told the Dane County Sheriff’s Department that he had to shift and keep his head up to see his surroundings because of the design of the boat.

The driver said he did not see Chen until moments before the collision, and he said he immediately put the boat into reverse to kill the engines, the District Attorney’s Office said.

The driver said he told the two other staffers on the boat that the windsurfer was underneath the boat, the office said. One of the staffers took the helm and another dove into the water to retrieve Chen’s body.

The watchtower operator was radioed to call 911, and Chen was taken to the UW Lifesaving Station, the office said. Chen was pronounced dead at the station.

The Medical Examiner determined the cause of death was chop wounds to Chen’s head, neck, torso and extremities, the office said.

The District Attorney’s Office said that it’s not clear how three crew members on the boat failed to notice Chen and the sail, but the position of the seats on the boat and possible direction of approach by Chen could have obstructed their vision.

This report will be updated.