A woman was struck and injured by a pontoon’s propeller when she fell off the front of the boat just after 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, according to the Barron County Sheriff’s Department. The woman was airlifted by Life Link III to Eau Claire with serious but non-lifethreatening injuries.
On Monday, July 6, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Tera Busker, 41, of Roberts, had been “riding illegally on the front of the boat.” The boat was passing through The Narrows on Pokegama Lake when it hit a wave, and she fell off.
A man who has a family cabin near The Narrows said he saw the pontoon pass with three people sitting on the front, which was a foot wide. None of the three were wearing life jackets. He did not see the woman fall in.
Speaking on Tuesday, July 7, Randy, who preferred his last name not be used, said he was swimming in the lake with his kids. He saw the pontoon pass and turned to his wife to comment on how irresponsible it was.
About ten seconds after they passed, he turned around to see they were stopped and people were in the water. He saw someone untangling something from the motor, but he could not tell what it was.
Having young kids himself, Randy was concerned a child was injured in the water. Fortunately, he later learned the child he saw on the front of the boat was not hurt.
Another boat picked the people up and took them to shore, Randy said.
Randy said the pontoon was about 20–22 feet long and had a 60- to 90-horsepower Honda outboard motor. It wasn’t cruising, he said, but was likely going about half-speed.
He also heard it was a big wave that caused the woman to fall overboard. The lake was about as busy as any other Fourth of July weekend, but “It was pretty choppy up there,” Randy said.
Fitzgerald said no boats collided and a nearby boat took the woman to shore. The pontoon the woman was riding in drove back to a cabin and that’s where deputies later located it.
Life Link III helicopter landed on CTH M near Lynda’s Lakeshore Resort. Randy said he was surprised of how fast the helicopter responded to the incident.
The event was being investigated by the sheriff’s department and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Because the case was open, Fitzgerald could not comment on what enforcement action would be taken. “At a minimum there will be citations issued,” he added.
Chetek Fire, Barron County First Responders and Chetek Ambulance Service also responded.