Fatal Collision on Blue Lake Road

14 Aug

Scene is “Horrific Nightmare”

Two vehicles collided on Blue Lake Road on Monday afternoon, August 13th, in a fatal traffic accident which left one man dead, and one man fighting for his life.  A little past 2:00 p.m. on Monday,  a flatbed truck driven by 50-year-old Robert Lemmer, employee of Lakeland Landscaping and resident of Hazelhurst, and an SUV driven by 21-year-old John “Jake” Pearl, resident of Peoria, IL, Min-Aqua Bat, Minocqua vacationer, and friend to many on Blue Lake, collided near the intersection of Agawak Road and Blue Lake Road.

Overturned Truck on Blue Lake Road

Overturned Truck on Blue Lake Road, Demolished Power Station

The SUV appears to have been traveling west on Blue Lake Road, missed the right turn onto Agawak, attempted a U-turn or a K-turn on Blue Lake Road, and came into contact with Lemmer’s truck.  Tire marks appear to suggest that Lemmer’s truck swerved in attempt to avoid the oncoming SUV.  Brake noises were not heard by area witnesses.  The truck then appears to have made contact with the SUV, and overturned onto its driver’s side on the northwest corner of the Agawak Road / Blue Lake Road intersection.  Lemmer died on the scene.  The SUV, demolished, appears to have careened across the front yard of a nearby home and into a copse of trees.

The SUV was so far removed from the truck that many thought the situation to be a one-vehicle accident involving only the flatbed truck.  A witness described the sound of the collision as, “a loud clash, like two metal garage doors slamming shut.”  The accident obliterated a power station at the intersection, which immediately cut cable and internet service to many on Blue Lake.

Shortly after the collision, rescue squads and the Minocqua Police Department arrived on the scene.  Pearl was transported to an area hospital, where he was treated and later released.  Pearl’s passenger Timothy “Kelly” Needham, 21, also from Peoria, IL, suffered substantial injuries, and was airlifted to a Wausau hospital where he remains in critical condition.  Crews remained on the scene for hours after the accident, and Blue Lake Road was shut down on Monday night as state investigators processed the site.

Traffic Chaos on Blue Lake Road

Backed Up Traffic on Blue Lake Road

For many years Blue Lake Road residents have been petitioning the town of Minocqua to lower the speed limit on Blue Lake Road, particularly the one-mile stretch from Highway 51 to Agawak Road, because of safety concerns, and because lower speed limits often yield greater windows for drivers to respond to the diverse road issues that Blue Lake Road faces.  A 2008 proposal to lower the speed limit on Blue Lake Road from 45 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour was supported by current Police Chief Andy Gee, Public Works Director Butch Welch, and current town supervisor Sue Heil.  The proposal was not supported by current supervisors John Thompson and Bryan Jennings, and current town chairman Mark Hartzheim.

Calls placed to town supervisors following the fatal accident on Blue Lake Road found Bryan Jennings seemingly annoyed, but Sue Heil and John Thompson inquisitive and appreciative of the information.  Blue Lake Free Press was unable to reach Mark Hartzheim and Billy Fried.

Blue Lake Road’s acute dangers were profiled by this blog last month in the article Straight But Not Safe: Blue Lake Road’s Incredible Struggle.

RETRACTED: Overnight Tuesday, August 14th, a draft of this post inadvertently became live with an update regarding the condition of Mr. Needham.  Shortly thereafter and immediately upon receiving notification that the post had gone live, the update was removed.  According to the Peoria Journal Star, Mr. Needham is listed in critical condition as of Wednesday morning at Aspirus Wausau Hospital.

UPDATE: Mr. Timothy “Kelly” Needham died on Saturday, August 18th, from injuries caused by the accident. Read about his legacy in the Peoria Journal Star.

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4 Responses to “Fatal Collision on Blue Lake Road”

  1. Marguerite P Myers August 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Outrageous& sad…
    When the speed limit is set too high (45 MPH) with input from the road’s primary users, the town must take some sort of tragic responsibility .

    The users have petitioned to get the speed limit lowered because of the very special nature of this Rural Road.

    The Minocqua Town Board board dismissed the concerns out of hand. Tragically some drivers have paid the ultimate price for the Minocqua Town Board short sighted ness.

    I say ‘unleash the lawyers’ (personal injury lawyers) it is the only way to get the town board to listen. Although I am not a huge fan of these lawyers, they do have their place with safety concerns..

    I am feeling like Christy Myers is Erin Brockovich right now and I am her sidekick..

    I say ‘NO MORE FATALITIES ON BLUE LAKE ROAD’ !!!!

  2. M.L. Krueger August 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    Well, we now have a fatality on Blue Lake Road following this horrific accident and the lives of three families have been torn apart. I would like to know what is going to be done. Yesterday’s tragedy quite possibly could have been avoided if Town Board had lowered the speed limit to a reasonable level when they had the opportunity to do so. While, I realize that the accident reports have not yet been released and it’s likely that “speeding” may not have been a factor, I am quite certain that “speed” most certainly was. 45 mph in this residential area is just way too fast and is not a reasonable speed. It is common to see walkers and bikers on a regular basis heading to and from the Bearskin Trail which is located on this stretch of road. Plain and simple…45 mph is an excessive limit!

    In my opinion three things need to be done. First and foremost, the speed limit between 51 and Agawak Rd must be reduced to 35 mph. Second, there should be a 4 way stop at Agawak Rd and Blue Lake Road. Third, the stretch between Agawak Rd and Blue Lake Pines Rd should be reduced to 25 mph. Most of the homes in this area are located directly on the road and it is simply unsafe when cars and trucks come barreling down the road at a high speed. Let’s be realistic…35 often means 40 and 45 often means 50!

    Blue Lake Rd is a beautiful, scenic, residential country road. Whether walking, biking or driving, everyone should be able to use and enjoy it at a reasonable, safe speed. If this accident is not a compelling reason to lower the speed limit I don’t know what is. Let’s not wait until another tragedy occurs; we need to do the right thing and lower the speed limit on Blue Lake Road now.

    • The Provost August 15, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      I couldn’t agree more. Excellent suggestions regarding Blue Lake Road, particularly the need for safer measures at Agawak Road. I’ve seen many dangerous maneuvers around that intersection. I think the diverse nature of the usage on Blue Lake Road leads to a strong element of unpredictability, making it necessary for drivers to have large windows of response time. Indeed, the issue is speed, not speeding. Blue Lake Road speed limits leave such a small margin for error that the town is setting road users up for catastrophe. It is the town’s responsibility to foster and protect the livelihoods of their residents, taxpayers, electors, and visitors. There’s no better way of doing this than keeping their people alive.

      • Marguerite P. Myers August 15, 2012 at 7:32 am #

        Great ideas… I also think from the Bear Skin Trail to Agawak Rd 25 mph would be prudent. It is residential. I am all for saving lives and slowing down.

        Our Blue Lake community is in peril every single day right now.

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