Court orders absolute sobriety for man charged in powerboat crash

Powerboat driver sentenced
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 9:11 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 9:16 AM CST
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A man charged in a powerboat crash on the Fox River appeared in court Thursday morning.

Jason Lindemann, 52, is charged with 21 counts for allegedly crashing his powerboat into a paddlewheel cruise boat last July.

During Thursday’s initial appearance, the court ordered a $10,000 cash bond. Conditions of bond include absolute sobriety, an alcohol monitoring device, and an alcohol program. Lindemann was ordered to surrender his passport to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office.

On July 9, at about 9:58 p.m., officers were called to the area between Wisconsin Street and Oregon Street bridges over the Fox River in Oshkosh. Lindemann’s 38-foot speedboat had hit the commercial On the Loos paddlewheel cruiser. There were 44 people on the paddlewheel boat at the time of the crash.

A witness who had been fishing in the area saw the powerboat traveling upstream from south of the Oregon Street bridge. The witness told police that he believed people on the boat to be “rowdy.” After the boat passed under the bridge, “it went to full throttle and the bow went up,” according to the complaint. The witness reported hearing a loud boom near where the On the Loos cruiser was located.

“Witness 2 looked to the north and saw the power boat ricochet to the right off the paddleboat,” reads the complaint.

The witness saw passengers get off the On the Loos. About 15 minutes later, the power boat passed by the cruiser. The witness heard someone from shore saying, “You hit me, you need to stop, you need to come over here.”

“In response, he heard a slurred voice coming from the power boat saying, ‘I didn’t see you.’”

People on the powerboat were heard saying “Shut up, we need to run to the marina and drop someone off,” according to the complaint.

The witness saw the power boat go downstream and never stop to check on the paddlewheel cruiser.

The witness reported seeing other boats following the powerboat in attempts to get it to stop.

An On the Loos passenger was on the upper deck of the paddleboat at the time of the crash. She said she did not see Lindemann’s powerboat approaching, but felt an impact and heard a thud. She looked over her shoulder and saw the bottom of the powerboat sliding across the hull of the On the Loos. She saw the powerboat veer away and come to a stop before traveling down the river with its lights off.

Another witness saw the powerboat stop at the river walk near the Leach Ampithether and observed multiple people get off the boat. The driver was identified as Jason Lindemann. A witness saw him get onto Lake Winnebago with no lights on.

Another passenger of On the Loos stated he jumped off to the shore and chased after Lindemann’s boat. The passenger caught up to them near the amphitheater and saw two people covering their faces so as not to be seen. “He stated that one of them was bleeding badly from the head.”

The victim heard Lindemann yell “I’m so f---d, I’m so f---d” before driving away with his lights off.

Another On the Loos passenger told investigators that he didn’t know how to swim and thought the cruiser was sinking. “He stated he feared for his safety and thought he might die.”

“He also feared for the safety of others on board and believed some people would be seriously injured or killed.”

On July 10, at about 10 a.m., officers went to Pioneer Marina in Oshkosh and found the powerboat involved in the crash. It had damage and what appeared to be dried blood inside the boat. A deputy found a case of White Claw on the boat.

The boat was registered to Sweetwater Performance Center in Oshkosh. The business is owned by Jason Lindemann.

A witness told a detective that at 8 p.m. on July 9, Lindemann and a friend arrived at Dockside Tavern. The witness stated that Lindemann asked if he and his wife wanted to go for a boat ride with some others. The passenger said they pulled away from the Dockside and Lindemann “took off” and “they hit something.” He said he gashed his head open when he fell.

Lindemann dropped them off at the dock and they returned to the Dockside. The passenger went to the emergency room and was treated for a bruised back and ribs and a gash above his eye.

Another passenger on the speedboat at the time of the crash said he had been drinking heavily all day and ended up at the Dockside with the defendant “where they continued to drink.” He got on the powerboat with Lindemann, who he identified as the driver. The passenger didn’t remember the crash. The only thing he remembered was arriving at Pioneer Marina early on the morning of July 10.

Another passenger stated that Lindemann was the only person driving the boat.

Another powerboat passenger told investigators that she had yelled at Lindemann to “take responsibility and turn around and check on people.” She said Lindemann ignored her.

“Victim 27 stated there were plenty of places the defendant could have stopped, but he did not,” reads the complaint.

A witness at a nearby bar on Lake Winnebago identified Lindemann as “the real drunk one” and had witnessed people on the powerboat taking shots of Crown Royal earlier in the day.

GPS data showed a slow no-wake speed under the Oregon Street Bridge, but the powerboat “accelerated rapidly,” reaching a top speed of 46 mph as it went in the direction of On the Loos. Lindemann slowed to about 31 mph at the time of impact. The video showed Lindemann failing to stop to help the people aboard On the Loos.

Several people aboard On the Loos suffered injuries, some continuing to seek treatment after the crash.

Lindemann is charged with two counts of Second Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety, 18 counts of Boating Accident Involving Injury - Fail to Render Aid, and one count of Negligent Operation of a boat.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 2. That’s when the court will decided if there is sufficient evidence for the case to move forward to trial.

Lindemann has also been cited with Operate Boat while Intoxicated in Winnebago County. That’s not a criminal charge. It’s considered a non-traffic ordinance violation.

A special prosecutor with the DOJ took over the case after social media posts sparked rumors of potential conflicts of interest within the county.

In August, Winnebago County District Attorney Eric Sparr announced he was handing the case to the DOJ because rumors on social media “helped create the appearance of conflict, even in the absence of an actual conflict.”

As law enforcement continued to investigate, it was discovered that some people in the office know some of the victims in the case.

“However, that alone would not have been something that would have required us to be off of the case,” Sparr writes.