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Homicide charges filed in boating fatality

A Minnesota man who was operating a boat on a pleasure ride last June when the boat hit a sheer rock face north of Kinnickinnic State Park beach was charged today (Oct. 31) with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

Patrick A. Puhalla, 47, Bayport, Minn., faces two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, one count of negligent operation of a vehicle and two counts of causing injury by operating a boat while intoxicated.

The most serious charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

A New Richmond man, David J. Riley, 40, who was harbormaster at Windmill Marina in Afton, Minn., was killed in the accident which was reported at 11:45 p.m. June 5.

Because the accident happened on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River, the incident was investigated by Pierce County authorities and charged in Pierce County Court. Puhalla is scheduled to make his first appearance at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25.

Another passenger in the boat, Daniel M. Schulte, 55, Hudson, was injured and treated at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Puhalla was also treated at Regions.

According to the criminal complaint, Schulte told investigators the men were on their way back to the Windmill Marina from Boat Drinks Bar in Prescott the night of the accident. He said Puhalla was trying out a new radar system which had just been installed on the boat. Schulte also told officers on the scene that the three men had been drinking that evening.

A Wisconsin State Crime Lab analysis showed Puhalla’s blood alcohol concentration was .114. In Wisconsin the prohibited blood alcohol concentration for drunken driving is .08.

For more, please see next week’s edition of the River Falls Journal, the Pierce County Herald, the New Richmond News or the Hudson Star-Observer.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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