Peace Corps releases statement about Lake Winnebago boat crash victim

WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Winnebago County Sheriff's Office has released the names of two women found dead after a boat crash on Lake Winnebago.

Investigators identified the victims as 26-year old Lauren Laabs and 20-year old Cassandra Laabs. Both women were from the Neenah area.

Action 2 News confirmed on Tuesday morning that Lauren had served in Peace Corps Ethiopia. The man who oversaw her work in that country released this statement:

"Lauren was a beloved member of the Peace Corps family in Ethiopia. She was deeply respected by her community and other Volunteers for the inexhaustible and infectious enthusiasm, creativity and optimism she demonstrated at all times, and in all ways. Lauren's dedication to service, and the professionalism with which she performed that service, made her a true role model for the numerous young people who are all better for having known her. She was a friend to us all, and she will be greatly missed. We are devastated by this tragic loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time."
-Brannon Brewer, Peace Corps Ethiopia Country Director

Autopsies were performed on both women Monday morning.

The sheriff's office responded to Lake Winnebago in the Town of Vinland just after 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The crash happened about one mile east of Paynes Point.

A 20-foot Rinker Captiva boat collided with a 26-foot Crownline E6XS.

The Laabs women were ejected from the Rinker Captiva. Two other people on that boat suffered serious injuries.

A dog ejected from the boat was found Saturday evening, but did not survive.

Two people on the Crownline craft were treated on shore and released.

The Winnebago County Dive Team and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources began a search for the women who went overboard.

Deputies located the bodies of the women on Sunday.

"Being out on the boat, nice weekend, beautiful weekend, and it turns in a instant," said Capt. Lara Vendola- Messer. "And absolutely that's something tragic for this area and this community and all the responders that are involved."

People who witnessed the rescue efforts said it was devastating to watch.

"All of neighbors we talked, we all sat out late, and we prayed for them. I hope they find the power within them to move on from here, it's devastating," said Lidiya Trusova.

The Sheriff's Office is still investigating the cause of the boat crash.

A fund for the Laabs family has been set up at Associated Bank.

Starting Monday evening, people can donate to "The Laabs Family Fund" at any Associated Bank branch.

The money will go toward paying for funeral costs.