A 23-year-old man who was extremely drunk when he crashed a snowmobile into a parked pickup truck on an east-central Minnesota lake and severely injured his passenger was sentenced Wednesday to a 90-day term and must pay thousands of dollars in restitution to his victim.
Travis D. VanElsberg, of North Branch, Minn., was sentenced in Chisago County District Court after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular operation in connection with the late-night wreck on Feb. 3 during a large gathering on East Rush Lake a few miles west of Rush City.
The passenger, Zoe Olivia Reider, 22, also of North Branch, spent a week in a Twin Cities hospital with bleeding on the brain, a lacerated liver, a punctured lung, three broken ribs and other injuries.
A preliminary breath test given to VanElsberg that night by a sheriff’s deputy measured his blood alcohol content at 0.229%, nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
The sentence from Judge Bridgid Dowdal credited VanElsberg with three days in jail upon his arrest, leaving 87 of the 90-day term that he must serve locked up.
Dowdal also ordered that during his three years on probation he must remain sober, stay out of bars and liquor stores, and not use any illicit drugs. He also owes Reider more than $6,800 in court-ordered restitution.
“A simple ice fishing trip turned into a tragic accident due to my poor decision,” VanElsberg wrote in a letter of apology filed with the court a day ahead of sentencing. “Not only did I hurt her, but I put her family and friends through a traumatic and scary experience.”
He went on to point out that he’s engaged to be married, graduated from Hamline University, is working for an accounting firm and spends time with his fiancée and his dogs in a new house “rather than going out and having a beer with friends on the weekends.”
VanElsberg was involved in another gathering about 13 months earlier, this one in Wyoming, Minn., that also involved alcohol and drew police attention. Officers responding to a noise complaint found about 150 people at the party. Some of the group of mostly underage drinkers tried to flee.
VanElsberg barricaded himself in an upstairs room before diving headfirst out of the room’s closed window, police said in an account released soon afterward. He was arrested at his home for underage drinking, police added.