City News

Evidence on windsurfer’s fatal collision with UW rescue boat reaches DA’s office, remains out of reach for family

A watch Yu Chen was reportedly wearing as he was fatally struck by a UW Lifesaving boat could have recorded details including his location and speed, according to family members.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

The county is set to decide whether charges will be filed in the case of a windsurfer who was hit and killed on Lake Mendota by a UW-Madison safety boat, after a report on the incident reached the Dane County District Attorney’s office this week.

Yu Chen, 43, sustained fatal injuries after he was struck May 31 by a UW Lifesaving boat, used for rescue operations on lakes serving UW-Madison and city. Three employees on the boat were returning from an unrelated rescue call at the time of the incident, according to authorities.

But details surrounding the incident have remained mostly intangible for the family of Chen and members of the public. It is clear that Chen’s arm was severed when he was hit, but officials have not released many more details.

Milwaukee attorney Jay Urban, who is working with the family, has for months expressed frustration with the lack of evidence available. In June, he told reporters officials had withheld evidence that could be sufficient to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

“We remain in the dark on the key things we need to utilize for the case,” Urban told The Daily Cardinal on Wednesday, adding he doesn’t understand why “at least some things” can’t be released.

Chen’s family said in June they planned to go to court to obtain access to evidence including information on the man’s severed arm — which may still be in the lake — and a watch he was wearing at the time of the incident, which records time, location and speed.

But officials at the Dane County Sheriff’s office remain firm that keeping details classified was and remains necessary until all investigations are complete.

“We want to make sure the information we release to anybody in that situation is complete — information is always changing — and also that we wouldn’t be jeopardizing anything by releasing information before it’s closed,” Public Information Officer Denise Schaffer told the Cardinal.

The Sheriff’s Office has completed its investigation on the incident, according to Schaffer, but the case will remain open until the District Attorney’s office reaches a decision.

“We certainly want to bring this case to a close as soon as we can,” Schaffer said. “We understand that the family is waiting for certain answers.”

Schaffer said while she can’t speculate on factors like the workload of the District Attorney’s office, she expects it will be “some time” before they reach a decision on the case.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne did not respond to request for comment.

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