A boater who was drunk when his best friend fell to his death from their rocking fishing boat in Voyageurs National Park has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and been sentenced.
Stanislaw Kozaczka, 56, of Harwood Heights, Ill., admitted in St. Louis County District Court last week to a misdemeanor count of operating a boat while drunk on Sept. 20, when Wlodzimierz Dziechciowski, 66, of Chicago, drowned in Lake Kabetogama.
Kozaczka had been charged with criminal vehicular homicide, a felony that would have likely resulted in prison time.
Instead, Judge David Ackerson sentenced Kozaczka to 90 days in jail, then set aside 86 of those days and gave him credit for the four he had already served. Kozaczka also was put on probation for a year.
In an interview with the Duluth News Tribune, defense attorney Craig Cascarano called the death a “tragic accident.” Cascarano said the men were best friends and that Kozaczka has received support from Dziechciowski’s family.
“It was very emotional for everyone,” Cascarano said, “and Stan will have to live with this for the rest of his life.”
Kozaczka told a sheriff’s deputy that he’d had four to six 12-ounce beers throughout the day of the accident. A preliminary breath test at the scene measured his blood alcohol content at 0.105 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent for driving in Minnesota.
Kozaczka said he and Dziechciowski had been fishing that morning and again in the afternoon, when they started back for the resort. He said Dziechciowski was sitting on a tackle box at the front of the boat. While turning toward shore, Kozaczka said the boat crossed over another boat’s wake.
The impact sent Dziechciowski into the water.
Dziechciowski left behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren.