Trial begins for Oshkosh man accused of driving his powerboat into a paddleboat on the Fox River in 2022 (2024)

OSHKOSH – A trial began Monday for an Oshkosh man accused of crashing his boat into a double-decker paddleboat cruise and leaving the scene in July 2022.

Jason Lindemann, 53, is charged with two felony counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety, as well as 12 misdemeanor counts of failing to render aid in a boating accident and one misdemeanor count of negligent operation of a boat.

"Frankly, it was a miracle that nobody was killed or even really badly injured in this crash," Assistant Attorney General Emily Thompson said during the prosecution's opening statement Monday morning.

Defense attorney Scott Ceman argued not enough evidence exists to convict Lindemann of the charges against him.

"What happened on Friday, July 9, 2022, was an accident. Plain and simple: this was an accident," he told the jury.

Lindemann's trial is scheduled to last through June 21, but may end sooner, depending on the length of testimony.

How did the crash happen?

Around 10 p.m. July 9, 2022, an approximately 38-foot-long powerboat crashed into a large paddleboat, owned and operated byOn The Loos Cruises,on the Fox River, between the Oregon Street and Wisconsin Street bridges in Oshkosh.

Forty-four people were on the paddleboat, and seven people aboard the powerboat, the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office announced after the crash.

According to a criminal complaint, the powerboat was headed directly toward the paddleboat at 46 miles per hour just before the crash, then swerved to the right and slowed to 31 mph at the time of impact. The powerboat struck the two-story paddleboat's left side, causing damage to the deck.

At Lindemann's preliminary hearing, a Winnebago County Sheriff's detective said officers arrived on scene to find passengers getting off the docked paddleboat and first responders providing aid. They were unable to locate the operator of the powerboat that night.

Multiple witnesses told investigators they saw the powerboat travel upstream, crash into the paddleboat, continue upstream, turn around back toward the paddleboat, then travel downstream, the detective said.

During opening statements Monday, the prosecution claimed Lindemann ignored calls for help from passengers aboard the paddleboat, while the defense said Lindemann did stop the boat, but had insults shouted and items thrown in their direction and left to drop off an injured passenger of Lindemann's boat on shore.

Passengers of the paddleboat had a variety of injuries. Thompson said one person was taken by ambulance to the hospital on the night of the crash, and others sought medical treatment in the following days. Their injuries included muscle and nerve pain, bruises and cuts, the complaint says.

Law enforcement located the powerboat the following morning around 10 a.m. It was parked at Pioneer Marina, located at 1100 Pioneer Drive. Damage was found to the right side of the boat's bow. Inside the boat, a deputy saw what was believed to be dried blood and a decoration from the On The Loos Cruises paddleboat, according to the complaint.

An employee of the marina told law enforcement the boat had come into the marina, where it was not authorized to be, sometime after 1:30 a.m. and before 8:45 a.m. that morning, July 10, 2022, the complaint says.

Multiple passengers who were on the powerboat told investigators they had been drinking with Lindemann at the Dockside Tavern prior to going for the boat ride the night of the crash, according to the criminal complaint.

The complaint says a DNR conservation warden reviewed video footage and found the On the Loos Cruise boat had its required navigational lights on at the time of the crash, while Lindemann's boat did not, instead only having its interior lights on, the complaint says.

Lindemann was previously charged with 18 counts of failing to render aid in a boating accident, but the charges were amended prior to trial.

On the Loos Cruises was forced topause bookings due to the crash, according to a statementon the company's website. According to its social media, the company hasn't resumed bookings since.

What did attorneys say during opening statements?

In the prosecution's opening statement, Thompson quoted the adage made famous by Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility."

She pointed out that Lindemann was the owner of not only the million-dollar powerboat, but also the Dockside Tavern, located at 425 Nebraska St., and the boat dealer Sweetwater Performance Center-Marina at 501 S. Main St. Lindemann is an "experienced boater," Thompson said, who knew the rules and responsibilities of operating a boat on the Fox River.

Lindemann did not exercise proper caution when he took his boat out that night after a day of drinking to "showboat" to some friends, Thompson said.

The assistant attorney general said evidence presented at trial will show Lindemann did not have the proper lights on his boat before the crash, and that he ignored people calling for him to stop and help from the paddleboat and from other boats on the water who witnessed the crash.

Thompson presented a slideshow of photos to the jury, which included an image of the damage to the On the Loos Cruises boat. Fortunately, she said, the passenger who had been sitting in that seat that was directly hit by the hull of the powerboat had left his seat shortly before the crash.

Thompson also said Lindemann appeared to hide. She said multiple witnesses said they saw the powerboat turn its lights off after the crash, and two passengers aboard Lindemann's boat said they spent the night along with Lindemann in Lake Winnebago before docking at Pioneer Marina in the morning.

Ceman painted a very different picture in the defense's opening statement.

Ceman argued "the only violation that the evidence will show" beyond a reasonable doubt was that the owner and operator of the On the Loos Cruises paddleboat had exterior party lights on his boat, which made it difficult for other boats to see the double-decker cruise, since it blended in with bright lights along the shore.

Ceman showed the jury a still image and brief video of what the paddleboat looked like on the water, from a security camera on a bridge.

He claimed "the party was still ongoing at the dock" after passengers were let off the paddleboat following the crash. Ceman said people started coming forward with injuries only after the crash received media attention, and began seeking compensation in lawsuits.

"The evidence will show the darker side of humanity: greed, want, envy, lack of empathy," Ceman told the jury.

RELATED:Oshkosh man pleads not guilty to charges in July Fox River powerboat-paddleboat crash

RELATED:District Attorney Eric Sparr requests special prosecutor in Oshkosh boat crash, cites 'appearance' of conflict of interest

What penalty could Lindemann face if convicted?

If the jury finds Lindemann guilty, he may face prison time.

If convicted of both counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety, which are Class G felonies, Lindemann could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $25,000 on each count.

Lindemann could also be sentenced to time in jail and additional fines on each of the misdemeanor charges, if convicted.

Contact Kelli Arseneau at 920-213-3721 Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at@ArseneauKelli.

Trial begins for Oshkosh man accused of driving his powerboat into a paddleboat on the Fox River in 2022 (2024)
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