Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Authorities still probing fatal boating incident

by Steve Targo

September 13, 2012

LAKE COMO — Kyle Drake said historically, watercraft collisions on lakes in Wisconsin are rare.

Over the phone Sept. 6, the state Department of Natural Resources recreational safety warden said investigators still don't know who hit whom in the fatal collision which killed an Illinois state trooper Labor Day morning on Lake Como.

"Historically, you look at the incidents, very few are collisions between boats," Drake said. "Most are single-boat incidents."

Perhaps that's why one of 48-year-old Patrick O'Driscoll's surviving relatives used the word "freak" to describe the incident to a Chicago television station last week. O'Driscoll's sister-in-law reportedly said both families involved "are devastated."

Patrick O'Driscoll was a master sergeant of the Illinois State Police and chief sergeants steward for the Teamsters Union. He also had been an attorney and a member of the Shannon Rovers, an Irish bagpipe band which has been a fixture in the Chicago area for more than 75 years.

The fatal incident — Drake said the DNR doesn't call them "accidents" — occurred Sept. 3 at 10:50 a.m. According to Drake, O'Driscoll was on a Jet Ski with his daughter, Maura, 9, when they collided with an 18-foot power boat. The incident occurred about 250 feet from the shore, near the north shore boat launch. Patrick O'Driscoll was pronounced dead at Aurora Lakeland Medical Center, Elkhorn. Drake said Maura O'Driscoll was treated for minor injuries.

Drake said the identity of the other boater involved is not being released at this time. He said the autopsy on O'Driscoll was completed last week, but they are waiting for the coroner's report. The investigation is being done by the DNR, the Walworth County Sheriff's Department and the Geneva Town Police Department, Drake said.

"At this point, we don't anticipate any alcohol was involved," he said.

On Sept. 6, Geneva Town Police Chief Steve Hurley said this is the first fatal accident in the community this year. Hurley said it's also the first fatal lake-related accident to take place since he became police chief in 2011. Hurley and Drake said Lake Como was busier than normal because it was Labor Day.

"(Lake Como) is certainly not as busy as Lake Geneva, but on weekends and holidays, the boating traffic perks up," Hurley said. "We just ask that everyone comply with the boating safety regulations and boating laws that are in place."

Drake said the fatal incident recalls two important rules to abide by when boating.

"The safety measures are to wear your life jacket and stay in your boat," he said. "Find a stable part of your boat and stay there in a collision."

People who usually die in boating incidents usually do not have their personal flotation devices on them and fall out of their boat, Drake said.

However, he said Patrick and Maura O'Driscoll were wearing their life jackets at the time of the collision. Drake said wearing life jackets is required by law when operating a Jet Ski.