Judge calls $1.28 million boat crash payment appropriate
Jan 05, 2013 (The Leader-Telegram - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
CHIPPEWA FALLS -- Chippewa County Judge James Isaacson approved a $1.28 million settlement Friday for Heather Pohl and her two sons, saying the money is an appropriate amount for them after the death of Heather's husband, Luke Pohl, in a July 2011 two-boat crash on the Chippewa River.
"This doesn't in any way replace what you lost, but hopefully this will make your life easier in the next few years," Isaacson told Heather Pohl.
Isaacson said the drivers of each boat, Mark Michels and Robert Romanshek, were drunk at the time of the crash, and both had controlled substances in their system.
"The settlement seems reasonable, under the circumstance," Isaacson said.
Heather Pohl appeared grateful after the settlement was approved but "nothing helps what I've lost," she said.
Heather Pohl will receive $649,000. Her 6-year-old son, Austin, will receive $100,000, which he will be allowed to access beginning in 2027; and her other son, 1-year-old Mason-Luke, will receive $100,000, which he can start receiving in 2032.
Money may not be withdrawn from the boys' accounts without a further order from the court. Austin's account is expected to grow to $158,000 and Mason-Luke's account to $193,000.
The Minneapolis law firm of Hauer, Fargoine, Love, Landy, McEllistem and Rorvig, P.A., which represents Heather Pohl, will be paid $430,558.
Including the Pohl family, the seven plaintiffs, representing boat crash survivors and victims, will split $3.5 million, the limit of the policies of Michels and Romanshek. Settlements for the other plaintiffs are pending.
The crash occurred at 9:44 p.m. Friday, July 22, 2011, an hour after the sun had set. The incident killed Michels, 50, of Eau Claire, Matthew Overhulser, 28, of Eau Claire, Matthew Simonson, 28, of Brooklyn Park, Minn., and Luke Pohl, 25, of Elk River, Minn.
The four survivors were Romanshek, Greg Voight, Leo Pohl and Carol Oller. Michels and Oller were in a speed boat; the other six people were on a deck boat piloted by Romanshek. Romanshek's boat was headed north, traveling upstream, while Michels' boat was going downstream.
No one has been charged with causing the crash. Chippewa County District Attorney Steve Gibbs said last week he is still considering possible charges.
Romanshek was charged with operating a boat while intoxicated in August 2011; he entered a not guilty plea and no new court dates have been set in the matter.
Vetter can be reached at 715-723-0303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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