DNR releases new account of 2019 fatal Mississippi River boat crash

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has closed an investigation into a fatal 2019 boat crash on the Mississippi River, finding that the boat driven by the man who was killed did not cause the crash as initial reports had suggested.

On Aug. 17, 2019, two boats collided in a head-on crash on the river near La Crosse. Scott Halvorson, 41, of La Crosse, died shortly after due to internal head injuries sustained during the crash, the La Crosse Tribune reported at the time.

Halvorson initially declined medical attention and planned to go to the hospital himself, according to a news release from the DNR.

According to the release, La Crosse County sheriff's deputies interviewed both Halvorson and the other boat operator — identified by the La Crosse Tribune as Keith Matush of Dane — following the accident. Initial accounts suggested Halvorson's jon boat cut in front of Matush's bass boat and failed to yield the right-of-way at a blind corner.

The DNR reconstructed the crash with the help of local agencies including the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department, city of La Crosse police and fire departments, and Wisconsin State Patrol. Investigators used sonar to locate the removable covering of Halvorson's boat's engine and used 3D technology to piece together exactly what happened during the crash, according to the release.

The new evidence found that the bass boat operated by Matush overtook Halvorson's boat and should have been the one to yield.

“The evidence from the investigation proved the initial report was not actually what happened,” Matt Groppi, a conservation warden with the DNR, said in the release.

Matush pleaded guilty Nov. 18 in La Crosse County Circuit Court to charges of misdemeanor negligent operation of a motor vehicle, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

Madeline Heim is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about environmental issues in the Mississippi River watershed and across Wisconsin. Contact her at 920-996-7266 or mheim@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: DNR releases new findings about 2019 Mississippi River boat crash