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Operator of boat that injured woman is charged

Thomas Hurlbut Ryan

The 24-year-old Denver man, who allegedly ran over a 21-year-old Greenwood woman Saturday when she fell off the boat he was driving on Whitefish Lake, faces criminal vehicular operation charges.

Thomas Hurlbut Ryan, 24, was charged Tuesday in Crow Wing District Court with two felony counts of criminal vehicle operation to cause great bodily harm while under the influence and two misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Judge Kristine DeMay posted bond at $50,000 without conditions and $25,000 with conditions. Ryan's next court appearance is 9 a.m. on Oct. 21.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office was dispatched around 6:30 p.m. Saturday to Whitefish Lake for a report of a passenger who had been run over by a boat and suffered an injury. Upon arrival, deputies learned Ryan had been operating the watercraft at a high speed across Upper Whitefish Lake.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Ryan, a passenger in the boat was leaning out over the bow into the water when Ryan slowed the boat down, crossing a wake which caused her to fall over the bow into the water. She then was run over by the watercraft.

The woman was struck by the propeller and suffered two lacerations to her right thigh, nearly severing her right leg, the complaint said.

The sheriff's office identified the woman as Maria Nerness. Nerness was transported from the scene to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. She was in critical condition Monday.

Ryan admitted to operating the boat and consuming alcohol one to three hours prior to the incident, the complaint said. Deputies observed Ryan had slurred speech, bloodshot and watery eyes, his left eye lid was drooping and he had the odor of alcoholic beverages on his breath. Deputies also observed that when Ryan got off the boat and onto the dock he was unsteady on his feet. A preliminary breath test was administered, which indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.187.

The sheriff's office records show Ryan was given a written warning on Aug. 8, 2010, for allowing a passenger in his watercraft to ride on the transom of the watercraft while it was underway.

The sheriff's office was assisted on scene by the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes police departments and the Ideal Fire Department.