One dead, one injured on water this weekend

VELVA – Tragedy struck at Strawberry Lake Saturday. An on-the-water accident resulted in the death of one young girl and the injury of another.

According to the McLean County Sheriff’s Department, the accident occurred about 2:27 p.m. Saturday. 10-year-old Haley Sundsbak, Des Lacs, died of her injuries the following day. She was one of four youth being pulled on two inner-tubes carrying two riders each behind a boat operated by 46-year-old David Gerding of Minot.

The inner-tube carrying Sundsbak and another 10-year-old was struck by a jet ski driven by Dean Bartsch, 31, Minot. According to the McLean County Sheriff’s Office, Bartsch became ejected from the 2003 Kawasaki jet ski which continued under apparent power uncontrolled until it struck the two girls on the inner-tube.

The injured girls were immediately taken to shore and attended by family and others while awaiting the arrival of first responders, including the Turtle Lake Ambulance Service. Sundsbak was air lifted by Life Flight to Trinity Hospital. The second injured victim was transported in a private vehicle that met a Minot Ambulance while enroute to Trinity.

Both girls were flown to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was there that Sundsbak died from her injuries. The second girl remains hospitalized. Her condition has not been released. Both girls were believed to have suffered head injuries.

Jet ski operators are required to have a lanyard attached to their person and connected to the ignition of the jet ski. The “kill” switch is activated in the event of an ejection of the driver and immediately stops the jet ski. Whether or not such a lanyard was in use at the time of the accident, or working properly, was not contained in the initial report on the accident.

Activity on Strawberry Lake was said to have been extensive on Saturday. Weather conditions at the time of the accident were hot and calm. Haley Sundsbak is the daughter of Chris and Ashley Sundsbak of Des Lacs. Strawberry Lake is located mid-way between Velva and Turtle Lake.

The incident remains under investigation by the McLean County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

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