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Update: Boat operator cited in fatal accident near Hennepin

HENNEPIN — Still investigating a fatal accident from Friday night, Illinois Conservation Police said a boat that crashed into a log after dark on the Illinois River had only one personal flotation device for the five people on board.

Area firefighters searched for a little less than an hour and recovered the body of Audiel Trujillo Perez, 53, from Michoacan, Mexico, said Putnam County Death Investigator Bob Cofoid.

Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Phil Wire said Perez was fishing with family members when the accident occurred.

Boat operator Audiel Ramirez, 48, of Schiller Park faces charges of operating while under the influence, operating with blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or greater and careless operation of a watercraft, Wire said. He said citations also were issued to the boat operator for having too many people aboard and not having enough life jackets or flotation devices.

Wire said five people in a fishing boat rated for four occupants had gone fishing, working their way downstream about four or five miles from Hennepin. Wire said reportedly the fishing was good, which is why they fished until sunset or after.

He said as they were returning to Hennepin, before 7 p.m., the boat struck a log and Perez was ejected into the water. From what he gathered in interviews that lasted until 4 a.m. Saturday, Wire said he believed the boat operator or occupants were not familiar with that stretch of the river and were navigating in the dark or near-dark.

Wire said the group searched for 15-20 minutes for the man who went overboard, and then called 911 around 7:15 p.m. He said the boat received heavy damage and could have sunk. However, the pump on board was working, and they were able to beach the boat.

Henry, Hennepin and Standard fire departments responded to the call, along with Putnam and Marshall county sheriff’s departments and PCEMS ambulance crew members. After almost two hours of searching, Henry Fire Department found the body approximately ½ mile downstream from the accident site.

Peru Rescue Station also was dispatched to the scene after 8 p.m., and arrived not long before Henry firefighter found the body.

Cofoid said he is awaiting final results of an autopsy. Toxicology is pending and may take four to six weeks before completion. Perez was pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m., Friday when the remains were transported to the Hennepin boat launch by Henry Fire Rescue, Cofoid said.

Wire said he has to file a report with the U.S. Coast Guard because of injury/fatality and more than $2,000 damage. Illinois Conservation Police took possession of the boat, pending investigation. The boat is a total loss, he said.

P.C. Death Investigators Office is awaiting final results from the autopsy. The investigation is continuing with the State of Illinois Conservation Police, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Putnam County States Attorney’s Office and the Putnam County Death Investigators Office.

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or csterrett@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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