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10-year-old girl dies after Jet Ski hits tubers on ND lake; another girl severely injured

VELVA, N.D. – A Jet Ski went out of control Saturday, striking an inner tube carrying two girls, killing one and severely injuring the other.  

According to the McLean County Sheriff's Department, the accident occurred about 2:27 p.m. Saturday, June 9, on Strawberry Lake between Velva and Turtle Lake in north-central North Dakota.

Ten-year-old Haley Sundsbak, Des Lacs, died of her injuries Sunday. She was one of four children being pulled on two inner tubes carrying two riders each behind a boat operated by 46-year-old David Gerding of Minot.

The inner tube carrying Sundsbak and another 10-year-old girl from Minot was struck by a Jet Ski driven by Dean Bartsch, 31, of Minot. According to the sheriff's office, Bartsch had been ejected from the 2003 Kawasaki Jet Ski which continued under apparent power uncontrolled until it struck the two girls on the tube.

Sundsbak was flown to Trinity Hospital in Minot. The second injured girl was driven in a private vehicle that met a Minot Ambulance while enroute to Trinity. Both girls were then flown to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare Hospital in St. Paul. It was there that Sundsbak died.

The second girl remained hospitalized Monday with severe head and internal injuries, according Lt. Rick Richard of the McLean County Sheriff's Department. Her name will not be released out of respect for the family, Richard said.

An operator of a Jet Ski or similar personal watercraft are required to have a lanyard attached to them and connected to the ignition of the watercraft. The "kill" switch is activated in the event of an ejection of the driver and immediately stops the watercraft. Whether or not such a lanyard was is use or working properly was not contained in the initial report on the accident.

Activity on Strawberry Lake was said to have been extensive Saturday. Weather conditions at the time of the accident were hot and calm.

The incident remains under investigation by the McLean County Sheriff's Department and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. No charges had been filed Monday.

Haley Sundsbak is the daughter of Chris and Ashley Sundsbak of Des Lacs.  A fundraiser for the Sundsbak family's medical expenses has been set up on Facebook. As of Monday afternoon, $27,000 had been raised.

Blair Emerson of the Bismarck Tribune contributed to this report.

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