Archive for » September 14th, 2017«

Tourists injured in boat crash

Allen and Karen Konen are slightly bruised and sore, but more than anything else, the California couple are thankful.

The Konens were among more than two dozen passengers who were injured when the sightseeing boat they were traveling in crashed into the riverbank near the Colorado River Portal on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 8.

Like most of the other passengers, they left the scene with relatively minor injuries and didn’t require much in the way of medical treatment.

Even so, they are grateful to the many first responders who came so quickly to their rescue, from Grand County Emergency Medical Services and Grand County Search and Rescue crews, to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Moab City Police Department and Moab Valley Fire Department. Their thanks extend to the employees at Moab Regional Hospital who examined Karen Konen as a precaution, after she began to experience chest pain following the crash.

“They were the nicest people, the kindest people, the most caring people,” Allen Konen said. “They all did a great job.”

Twenty-eight passengers and one operator were on board the Canyonlands by Night and Day boat when it experienced a mechanical failure, causing it to crash into the rocks along the riverbank just below Kane Creek Boulevard. A Utah State Parks boating inspector determined that the boat’s starboard jet steering mechanism failed while it was traveling at an estimated speed of about 25 miles per hour, according to Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal.

Neal said that passengers’ injuries ranged between mild and serious, although none of them were life-threatening.

One older woman reportedly sustained a broken collarbone, while others had bloody noses and cuts on their faces. Allen Konen walked away with injuries to his leg and his side, while his wife has what he called “some pretty good bruises.”

“I don’t think that anybody got away without bumps and bruises,” he said.

Grand County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crews first responded to the incident just before 6 p.m. that afternoon. Once they had arrived at the scene and further assessed the situation, EMS crews called for additional ambulances.

Altogether, EMS evaluated 26 patients – nine of whom were transported to the hospital for further treatment. Because most of the patients who were treated at the hospital were over the age of 60, there were concerns about broken bones, so the hospital called in additional radiology technicians.

Moab Regional Hospital subsequently treated 17 people, according to MRH CEO Jen Sadoff, and EMS reported that one patient was later transferred via ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Neal gave credit to the many different entities who responded to the incident.

“Everybody helped out,” he said. “It was a pretty well-coordinated rescue.”

Sadoff, meanwhile, said the first responders worked collaboratively to ensure that everyone who was on the boat received care – and received that care quickly.

Many other hospital employees, including four physicians, also came in to help provide coverage – even after they’d already worked long shifts, or taken the day off.

One of them – Dr. Steven Rouzer – was up in the mountains at the time of the accident, while Dr. Kim Brandau was a two-hour car drive away. According to Sadoff, Brandau turned her car around as soon as she found out about the accident and rushed back to the hospital.

“I am always just amazed at our staff and their willingness to come in when situations like this happen,” Sadoff said.

“I knew that we were not going to make that turn”

The Konens were traveling in the front of the boat with two of Allen Konen’s in-laws. About 10 minutes into the ride, the boat had just gotten up to speed and was somewhere around the Colorado River’s confluence with Mill Creek when something went awry.

Konen has previously been on boat rides along Oregon’s Rogue River, so he said he understands how boats operate. As the Canyonlands by Night boat began to make a right-hand turn, he said, he had the sense that something was wrong.

“We got to that certain point, and I knew that we were not going to make that turn, and that we were going to hit those rocks,” he said.

The following sequence of events happened so fast, he said, that passengers had little time to react.

“I believe the boat operator said, ‘Hold on,’” he said.

Since they were at the very front of the boat, the Konens braced themselves as well as they could, but they got banged up as the craft bounced up onto the rocks. Upon impact, Konen said, the front rows of seats that were bolted to the boat tore loose.

Moab Regional Hospital staffers subsequently performed an X-ray and MRI on Karen Konen, and she was released from the facility that same evening.

Needless to say, the Konens took the next day off and laid low. Yet by Sunday, Sept. 10, they were up and about, venturing off to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park before continuing on this week to Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.

Canyonlands by Night group sales specialist Rachel Paxman said she cannot comment on the accident because an insurance company’s investigation of the incident is ongoing.

Konen said he has no ill will toward the boat’s operator, and said he thinks it’s a mistake to second-guess that person’s actions in the moments leading up to the crash.

“If he threw it in reverse, it would have nose-dived the boat,” he said. “I think that would have been a lot worse than what happened.”


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Work begins on Wolf River wall, boat launch

Boat launch improvements coming

By Scott Bellile


A six-week project started Monday, Sept. 11, to repair and replace portions of New London’s downtown Wolf River wall and install a new docking system.

“The river wall over its history has had substantial maintenance work on it every 25 years, and I’m talking from going back to the early 1900s,” New London City Administrator Kent Hager told the Press Star Friday, Sept. 8. “It’s been 35 years since the last maintenance work was done on the river wall, so our plan is some significant catch-up on maintenance.”

The wall repairs will span the start of the 200 block of North Water Street, where The Quilting Connection is located, to the Sigurd W. Krostue Memorial Bridge on Pearl Street.

An 86-foot ADA-accessible fishing dock will be installed behind St. John’s Park. The dock will contain a 14-by-14-foot fishing platform and cleats to tie up as many as six boats.

The dock will be tested there but then go into storage until next spring.

The total project cost is $651,040.

NuGen Johnson of Sussex will complete the wall work at a cost of about $263,000, Advance Construction of Green Bay the dredging at $228,000, and ESP Products of Brussels the dock at $160,000.

The back alley along the wall will be closed during the project. Slow no wake rules will also be enforced.

This week NuGen Johnson is expected to remove pavement and excavate for wall removal, according to the work schedule.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources awarded the city of New London two grants totaling over $495,000 to help pay for the new dock. These grants cannot cover more than 50 percent of the project cost. Any leftover grant dollars may be eligible to be used on an upcoming boat landing extension.

Project obstacles
The wall project was delayed from the intended start date of June or July.

Former Public Works Director Jeff Bodoh, who left his job in August, told the New London Board of Public Works in June that the delay occurred because although companies turned in bids for the dredging and the dock project in May, nobody bid on the wall portion. Of the two companies expected to bid, one had a full project schedule while the other had an internal communication error about the bidding.

When the city reopened bids on June 23, two contractors submitted. The winner, NuGen Johnson, presented a bid nearly $75,000 lower than Pember Companies of Menomonie.

The New London City Council approved the three low bids for the wall, the dock and dredging in July.

Hager said the city intended to repair and replace the wall from Pearl Street to Shawano Street, but the city did not attract the “appropriate bids for the entirety of the project,” so the city split the job into two phases.

Phase one is the wall from The Quilting Connection to Pearl Street. Phase two will be the Quilting Connection to Shawano Street. The latter will be completed next year, Hager said.

Phase two will also include the construction of two dumpster pads intended to centralize trash pickup in the back alley, Hager said.

Riverside Park boat landing
Downtown New London is not the only part of the Wolf River that will see improvements.

In a separate project, the city plans to extend two of its boat ramps at Riverside Park, located three-quarters of a mile downriver on County Highway X. This is the city’s only motorized boat launch facility.

In July, per city council authorization, Hager applied for a DNR Recreational Boating Fund grant to renovate the boat landing.

The project could cost more than $185,000, New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth said. A DNR grant would cover up to half of the cost.

Hoerth told the Press Star Friday, Sept. 8, he presented his case to the Wisconsin Waterways Commission in August. The city should have heard by now whether it won the grant, but delays in state lawmakers passing a budget have put the process on hold, he said.

The delays at the state level have pushed back the project, Hoerth said. The city will not proceed until it hears whether it won the DNR grant.

The city will extend the boat ramps regardless of whether it lands a grant, Hoerth said. If the city does not, then it could be eligible to use some leftover dollars from the river wall grant once that project is completed, and if there are leftover dollars.

The boat landing work was bid out in May. Michels Foundations of New Berlin submitted the lowest bids on two different ramp extension options with $162,940 and $206,140.

Hoerth said he hopes things move along so the boat launch work can occur in 2017. If not, work must wait until after the walleye and white bass runs next year.

Hoerth explained the problems with the current boat launches in a report he wrote in April.

“In 2017 planning is underway to extend the western and central launch ramps as boats have become more powerful and ‘power loading’ is more common,” Hoerth stated. “Power loading has scoured the end of the concrete ramps resulting in a large drop off at the end of the ramp and a buildup of that material directly outward from each ramp. Trailers have dropped off this edge and boat propellers have run into the built up material when the water is low.”

The city purchased the launch from Chester and Alice Allen in 1936 for $10,000, according to Hoerth.

Future needs to consider for the boat launch, Hoerth stated, are better development of the east ramp and automated vending machines for accepting boaters’ payments. He stated the latter would make accounting easier for parks staff and cut down on fraud.

Hoerth told the New London Parks and Recreation Committee in June that a parks official who works near Madison encouraged him to buy automated vending machines.

“He said the biggest thing was in his first year that they had them, their revenue … went up 10 grand that year because they got rid of the cheaters because you can’t cheat,” Hoerth said. “With our current envelope situation, it’s fairly easy to cheat.”

Last year, the boat launch generated $24,784 from the sales of 3,512 passes, according to Hoerth’s report.

From the 406 annual passes sold last year, 160 went to residents and 246 went to non-residents.


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Fishing Boats Approved For Retail Sales At Fisherman’s Wharf

Yesterday, the San Francisco Port Commission approved a one-year pilot program proposed by agency officials to allow the sale of fish directly from fishing boats, reviving a program that expired nearly two decades ago. 

According to the Examiner, the Port will consider making the program permanent after the pilot concludes.

The Commission first floated the idea after fishers approached the agency in January, citing a desire to earn additional income. Due to the the high cost of regulation of vessel safety, fish handling, and fishing quotas, they explained that retail sales would supplement income and help maintain economic vitality. 

Giuseppe Pennisi—who comes from a fishing family and is the owner of fishing vessel Pioneer—argued for direct sales at a Commission meeting in July.

“Nobody has an overhead as high as a fishing boat…more than any processing plant,” he said. “Plus, I have to risk my life. None of these people have to do that who have a resale business.”

“When you can have flexibility, you can do a lot with a fishing boat.” 

Photo: Jeremy Keith/Flickr 

The move only applies to permanent berth-holders at Fisherman’s Wharf who sell whole fish, pay a $225 fee, and comply with all state and local laws, potentially impacting 43 licensed fishing boats at the wharf.

Sports boats berthed at Jefferson Street and the Hyde Street harbor would be excluded from the program. 

However, some have opposed direct sales from fishing boats because of concerns over health and safety regulations.

Some distributors have also called for authorities to ensure an equal playing field for fishing boats and distributors, leading the Commission to opt for a pilot program instead of outright approval. 

“I’m not against anybody in business…but I was forced to get a facility on the pier. I’m also required to have 10 licenses,” said Dan Strazzullo with All Shores Seafood during public comment at July’s Port Commission Meeting.

Maintaining his position at yesterday’s meeting, Strazzullo reiterated, “we have no problem with anyone selling anything, as long as they follow the rules.” 

However, fishing boat owners praised the decision. “[T]his is part of San Francisco’s history,” said Pennisi. “I’d hate for it to be gone.”


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Fish and Fleet draws crowds

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