Wave runner crash first water fatality of 2014

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – Conservation Officer Matt Tholen was back out patrolling Lake Shafer Monday, just two days after a fatal wave runner crash.

“A major accident like this doesn’t happen very often on our two big lakes up here, Lake Freeman and Lake Shafer,” said Tholen.

The crash happened when 43-year-old Anne Wittstock drove her wave runner into NIPSCO security cables.

Tholen said it’s the third water accident fatality in about 10 years.

“As an officer or a person, it never feels good to have an accident,” said Tholen. “So, it’s something that we go out and do our job to the best of our ability.”

It’s also the first time he recalls a crash involving these barriers. NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the barriers were installed in 2001 as a safety requirement.

“As you approach the face of the dam, obviously, the water is being pulled or the current is being pulled underneath the water to go through the dam which helps generate electricity,” said Meyer. “So, it’s really intended for public safety.”

Meyer said each barrier weighs about 200 pounds. The barriers are placed about 75 feet apart, with cable strung between each one.

“Really, what the cables are intended to do, is to keep the buoys anchored in position,” said Meyer.

Tholen said DNR officers don’t change how they patrol the waters following a fatal crash. But after an accident like the one this weekend, they do ask for the public’s cooperation.

“Always be careful,” said Tholen. “Always be on the lookout for the other driver, the other object in the water. You know, just always pay attention to everything.”

Tholen said alcohol and speed are believed to be a factor in this weekend’s crash. Toxicology results are still pending.

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