Family plans civil lawsuit in death of windsurfer
MADISON, Wis. — Friends and family of a 43-year-old windsurfer killed by a University of Wisconsin-Madison lifesaving boat are still looking for justice after the Dane County District Attorney’s Office announced it would not file criminal charges in Yu Chen’s death.
Chen’s family attorney said he’s planning to file a civil lawsuit against the state claiming wrongful death within about a week.
Late Friday night, the district attorney’s office put out a release saying it found no criminal negligence on the part of UW staff on the boat when it hit and killed Chen, who was windsurfing, on May 31 2017.
“He’s always there for you. He doesn’t think about himself,” Yu Chen’s friend, Gang Chen, said. “We thought he D.A.’s decision could come sooner than this.”
The district attorney’s office release said no drugs or alcohol were found in the boat operators’ systems and that it’s not clear how the three crew members didn’t see Chen, but it’s possible the boat blocked their view.
Still, friends and family want to know where to cast blame.
“For us, just the family will be more at peace when we really figure out what’s going on and who’s really responsible and what happened on the boat that day,” Gang Chen said.
“Two things are incredibly frustrating to the family and the public: the delay and misstatement of fact,” said Jay Urban, attorney for Yu Chen’s family.
He said while the DA’s decision itself is not surprising, some information in the release contradicts his own investigation.
“For example, wind speed, and who’s looking at what,” he said. “He makes the comment in there they can’t see out the boat. If they can’t see out of the boat, why are they using that boat?”
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said the information came from Sheriff’s Department investigations, and that while he told Urban he would be interested his findings Thursday, he didn’t believe the attorney wanted to share it at the time.
Along with the DA’s decision, the UW police department released its review of the UW Lake Safety program, which addresses training and operational issues. Chen’s family said the report’s recommendations are a step in the right direction.
“Because they never want to see this happen to anyone else,” Urban said.
Urban hopes the civil suit will help Yu Chen’s 80-year-old mother, who lives in China.
“Ms. Chen was supported by her son,” he said. “They’re the only two people that were each other’s family.”
“Well, we want justice,” Gang Chen said.
Yu Chen’s friends and family have started a memorial fund in his honor. They recently donated $1,000 to the American Family Children’s Hospital.
More information can be found here.
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