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September 21, 2019

9/5/2019 1:38:00 PM
Rush Lake personal injury incident sends one to jail

The operator of a snowmobile that collided with a pickup truck on East Rush Lake;  a little after midnight on the third of February and seriously injuring the snowmobile passenger, was sentenced Wednesday, August 28.  Travis Vanelsberg, 22, had his blood alcohol content tested at a medical facility soon after the incident and it was .178.  He entered a guilty plea July 24 (story Press Aug. 1) as part of a plea agreement, to criminal vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm.

Judge Dowdal did not hear from the passenger, a young North Branch woman who sustained head trauma and broken bones. Nor did the judge hear from her family, as they elected not to attend last week’s sentencing.  Judge Dowdal said she’d read letters they submitted to the court.

Vanelsberg’s attorney Jill Brisbois told Judge Dowdal the friends who were snowmobiling that night were a close knit group and look forward to putting this behind them.  And, instead of a letter of apology which is often ordred by the court, Brisbois said Vanelsberg and the victim are agreeable to talking in person.  During the months of this legal process communication was discouraged among the parties. Vanelsberg and the victim can now try to “bury the hatchet,”  said Brisbois. Vanelsberg  added,  even though the pre-sentence investigation report referenced him displaying partial remorse, he said,  “I’m really sorry for what happened.”

Prosecuting attorney David Hemmimgs told the judge that the staff in the county attorney’s office were impacted by the timing of this February incident.   A December 2018 snowmobile-pedestrian crash on Chisago Lake killed an 8-year-old boy.  It too involved operating a snowmobile under the influence.  Hemmings told the court county prosecutors hoped this prior tragic loss had sent the message loud and clear-- don’t drink and drive a snowmobile.  But apparently not.

Under the plea agreement Vanelsberg, also of North Branch,  will serve 90 days in county jail, and is to report September 17.

He receives credit for three days served.  He will pay a $500 fine, restitution of $6,856 for medical bills for the victim.  He must follow conditions of three years of probation.  If he successfully completes probation and remains law abiding he will see the felony count he pled to officially dropped to a gross misdemeanor.

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