by Jim Boyle
A funeral service was held Wednesday for Luke Pohl, a 25-year-old Elk River man who died in a boating accident that occurred last Friday on the Chippewa River in Chippewa County, Wis.
Pohl leaves behind his wife, Heather Marie (Riggle) Pohl, their son, Austin, and their second child who is due later this year.
He also leaves behind his extended family, including a brother, Leo, who was supposed to get married one day after the crash.
Attempts to reach the family have been unsuccessful. It’s clear from Heather Marie’s Facebook page there has been an outpouring of support ever since news of the tragedy surfaced.
The Elk River woman commented on it on her site. She stated: “The love and support our family and friends have shown is unbelievable. I will forever be lost without my Luke (by) my side but will stay strong for our babies. Until we meet again, my sweet husband, I love u with every beat of my heart.”
Pohl was among six passengers on an open-deck boat that collided with a speedboat just before 10 p.m. Friday.
They were in town to celebrate the marriage of Leo Pohl of Buffalo and Maura Romanshek, 27, the daughter of Robert Romanshek, 56, of Eau Claire.
The wedding has been postponed, and the future of Romanshek, the driver of the boat containing the wedding party, remains uncertain. He was arrested but later released.
Mark Michels, 50, of Eau Claire, who was driving the other boat, was killed. His passenger, Carol Oller, 49, of Hayward, Wis., was in stable condition earlier this week, said Kelly Thompson, nursing supervisor at Eau Claire Hospital.
Michels has a record of boating while drinking.
Romanshek and four people on his boat were thrown from the boat upon impact.
Romanshek, Leo and Greg Voight, 29, of Buffalo, swam to shore and were treated and released.
Matthew Overhauser, 27, was found dead on the boat a half-mile downstream.
Luke Pohl and Matthew Simonson, 28, of Brooklyn Park, who had proposed marriage to his fiancée just one week before the crash, went missing after the crash. Their bodies turned up at different spots in the river Sunday morning.
The wedding party’s Princecraft boat collided with a Larson speedboat carrying two people. Both boats were traveling at more than 20 mph, officials said. None of the boaters were wearing life jackets.
Michels most recent conviction for operating under the influence was in April 2004 in Eau Claire County, Wis.
He was charged again in 2007 in Wood County, Wis. with the same offense, but those charges were dismissed by the prosecutors, the records show. He also had been charged several times with operating after revocation and suspension.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said Monday that the investigation of the crash has been turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
According to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, authorities investigating the crash will meet with the Chippewa County district attorney, who will decide what, if any, charges are to be filed.
Authorities said the investigation into the boat crash could take several weeks.
by Jim Boyle