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Boater pleads not guilty to homicide

A man who was driving a speedboat the night of June 5, 2013, when it hit a rock face near Kinnickinnic State Park, was arraigned in Pierce County Court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to homicide charges in the death of a passenger.

Patrick A. Puhalla, 47, Bayport, Minn., faces three felony charges: homicide by intoxicated use of vehicle, homicide by use of a vehicle with prohibited alcohol content and homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.

He also faces two misdemeanor charges – causing injury by intoxicated boat operation and causing injury by operating a boat with prohibited alcohol content – as a result of the same incident.

David J. Riley, 40, New Richmond, who was harbormaster at Windmill Marina in Afton, Minn., was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second passenger, Daniel M. Schulte, Hudson, was injured and treated at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Puhalla was also injured and hospitalized at Regions.

According to court records, Puhalla, Riley and Schulte had been drinking at a Prescott bar and were returning to Afton when the 40-foot Formula 400 boat hit a rock face near the state park’s boat landing. Puhalla had a blood alcohol level of 0.114.

The most serious charges against Puhalla carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

No further court dates have been scheduled. The case is assigned Judge James Duvall.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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