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Child hurt in Meeker County boating accident, flown to HCMC

LITCHFIELD -- A 3½-year-old child sustained a life-threatening head injury during a boating accident around 7:15 p.m. Tuesday on Lake Stella. The child, whose name was not released, was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment of their injuries.

According to a news release from Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin, the 3½-year-old child injured seriously was one of four people, one adult and three young children, who were on an inflatable tube that was pulled by a boat driven by Joseph James Ziegler, 34, of Litchfield.

Ziegler's boat was westbound on the south portion of Lake Stella. A second watercraft operated by Tony Leske, 31, of rural Darwin, had just departed his dock and Ziegler didn't see Leske's boat immediately. When Zieger saw the other boat, he turned sharply, avoiding collision; however, the occupied inflatable tube collided with the front portion of the boat driven by Leske.

The 5-year-old child riding on the tube suffered minor non-life threatening injuries and was transported to Hutchinson Hospital by Gold Cross Ambulance. The 3-year-old and the adult female, Jolene Kay Hoepner, 29, of Dassel, suffered no injuries.

Leske and his passenger, Timothy Allen Vanhove, 32, of rural Darwin, suffered no injuries. Neither of the boats involved in the accident sustained damage. It was determined that alcohol was not a factor in the accident.

The Sheriffs Office is continuing its investigation into the incident