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.
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.
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.