Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Drunk boater Julian Uptegrove of De Pere, 35, critically injured, 3 passengers injured, after he crashed his boat in the Cat Island rock wall in an area of the Green Bay, boats aren't even supposed to be, outside the shipping channel.

The boat that crashed into the Cat Island rock wall on June 3, 2017, shows extensive damage to the bow (WBAY photo) 

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A De Pere man remains hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a boat crash on Green Bay over the weekend. Investigators believe the De Pere man was operating the boat, drunk, and speeding.

Here is what his wife Corrine wrote on his facebook page:

Update. Julian has been moved out of icu but has stated no visitors at this time. They had him up walking twice today. One day at a time. Again thank for all the support and prayers. Love you all

His three passengers -- a woman and two men, all 26 years old -- were also hurt.

Investigators are trying to piece together what happened in a crash they say likely could have been prevented.

"It very possibly could have been prevented if safe boating practices would have been followed," DNR conservation warden Darren Kuhn said.

The damage to the underside of the powerboat's bow is extensive. Brown County investigators believe it's the result of mixing alcohol with speed.

"We do know there was a lot of open, there was a lot of empty and there was still full containers of alcohol inside the boat," Capt. Dan Sandberg, Brown County Sheriff's Office, said. "All we know is that they were going fast."

Investigators don't know the exact speed yet, but they say the boat hit the Cat Island rock wall hard in an area of the bay the DNR says boats aren't even supposed to be, outside the shipping channel.

Brown County authorities think 35-year-old Julian Uptegrove of De Pere was trying to beat an approaching thunderstorm.

Investigators believe a big dent right above the steering wheel is likely from someone being thrown around by the impact.

"Anywhere from a collection of broken bones, lacerations with 20 stitches, concussions, all kinds of injuries," Sandberg said.

Authorities are still waiting for results of blood tests to find out the boat operator's alcohol level, but he was arrested for boating under the influence. Investigators say he'll likely face several criminal charges as well.

"The biggest thing is, boats don't have seat belts, and with boats, when they strike something, the things inside it are going to move around, and that's extremely dangerous," Sandberg added.

The lack of seat belts, air bags and brakes on boats are all things the Department of Natural Resources pointed out a few weeks ago in our Target 2 investigation about boating under the influence and Wisconsin's laws, "Are drunk boating laws watered down?"

After this weekend, wardens are worried.

"Certainly concerned what's coming up for the future boating season if this is how we're starting," Kuhn said.

In this case, the location of the crash also serves as a warning to other boaters. Authorities say water levels around Cat Island are higher now and boats are able to access those rock walls, so boaters need to pay extra attention to where they are and stay in the shipping channels.