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Eden Prairie man charged in boat collision incident

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

John Fisher Harstad, 47, of Eden Prairie, Minn., pleaded innocent April 12 in Beltrami County District Court to amended serious felony charges in relation to an Aug. 9 boat collision on Cass Lake.

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The charges include:

- Three counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation-operate vehicle with negligence-under the influence of alcohol.

- Three counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation of a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

- Two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation of a vehicle with negligence under the influence combination of alcohol/controlled substances.

- Gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular homicide or operation of a vehicle with negligence -under the influence combination of alcohol/controlled substances.

- Two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation of a vehicle under the influence of Schedule I or II controlled substance.

- Gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular homicide or operation-operate a vehicle under the influence of Schedule I or II controlled substance.

The original charges were for two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation of a vehicle with negligence under influence of alcohol and two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation of a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

His next court date will be June 1.

According to the criminal complaint:

On the evening of Sunday, Aug. 9, Steven Snow, his mother, Dorothy, and several friends and family members were visiting at a family cabin on Buck Lake. The group decided to go to dinner at the Stony Point Resort on Cass Lake. The group of eight individuals got into a 19-foot Starcraft Runabout boat to make the trip from Buck Lake to Stony Point. The journey took them into that part of Cass Lake lying within Beltrami County and near Star Island.

Richard Hanson and his son-in-law, Ryan O'Brien, were fishing in that area when a white fiberglass boat, traveling at a high rate of speed, came within 50 yards and traveled west. Hanson and O'Brien watched as the male driver of the white fiberglass boat "T-Boned" the runabout, throwing six of the occupants into the water. One of the passengers, an 11-year-old boy, suffered a fractured jaw as a result of the collision. He was thrown into the water, having almost bitten his tongue in two as a result of the collision. Steven Snow was knocked unconscious by the collision, and, when he regained his senses, discovered he was bleeding severely from a lacerated forehead. Another elderly passenger in the boat suffered contusions.

The white fiberglass boat sustained significant damage to its prow in the collision, but the driver did not stop the boat. Instead the boat continued to be operated at full throttle and was steered in circles while gradually moving away from the scene of the collision.

Beltrami County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Thompson was at the Break-On-The-Lake resort on Cass Lake, and became aware of the collision. Several individuals from Snow's boat were still in the water. Deputy Thompson enlisted the assistance of Steve Ballou, the owner of the resort, who took one of his boats and responded to the collision scene with Thompson. Others had arrived at the collision scene first and had taken the members of the party aboard their boat. It was then that one of the rescuers pointed out to Thompson the white fiberglass boat, which had struck Snow's boat. By that time, the boat was a half-mile away. Thompson and Ballou set out to stop the boat, which was still under full power and driving in a counterclockwise circle. When the deputy got within 30 yards of the boat, the driver and sole occupant of the boat stopped the boat. As Thompson boarded the boat, he observed that the male driver was drunk. He had a substantial injury to the rear of his head which was bleeding and an injury to his chest. The driver was identified as Harstad. He was transferred to an official sheriff's vessel and then to an ambulance and was flown to Duluth for emergency care. At the hospital, a blood sample was seized for further analysis. Harstad's boat was searched, and 16 empty beer cans were found, as well as unopened cans of beer and nearly empty bottles of tequila and gin. The blood analysis came back Sept. 9 and showed a blood alcohol concentration of .17.

Harstad has prior convictions for felony theft and two DWI convictions. On Jan. 12, an additional Certificate of Analysis was received from the BCA. The analysis showed the presence of both morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance, and a metabolite of THC, the hallucinogen present in marijuana, a Schedule II controlled substance.

A statement and medical records were received for a female passenger from Harstad's boat. She suffered a broken tooth from the collision.

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Pioneer staff reports
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