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Mechanical analysis being done on Jet Ski that killed girl on ND lake

VELVA, N.D. – Kawasaki technicians are examining a Jet Ski as the McLean County Sheriff's Department continues its investigation into an collision last weekend on a north-central North Dakota lake that resulted in the death of a 10-year-old girl and severe injuries to another girl.

Haley Sundsbak, Des Lacs, died of her injuries a day after the Saturday afternoon accident. Abby Mikkelson, 10, is hospitalized in critical condition with a variety of injuries, including a skull fracture, but her condition has reportedly been improving this week. Both girls were flown to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., shortly after the incident.

The girls were tubing behind a boat when they were struck by a 2003 Kawasaki Jet Ski operated by Dean Bartsch, 31, Minot.Bartsch was ejected from the Jet Ski which continued "uncontrolled" when it struck the two girls in the tube.

"We are doing a mechanical and technical analysis of the Jet Ski. It is being examined by Kawasaki technicians," said Lt. Rick Richard, McLean County Sheriff's Department and former collision reconstructionist for the North Dakota Highway Patrol. "We are doing on-scene analysis as well. The detective is very busy but it is very time consuming."

One of the items certain to be under scrutiny is whether or not a tether to a "kill" switch was used properly and whether or not the kill switch was in working condition. Operators of personal watercraft are required to have a tether secured to themselves and to the kill switch. In the event the operator is thrown from the driver's seat the tether engages the kill switch and the motor of the personal watercraft shuts off.

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