Police take over UW Lifesaving Station rescue boat operations - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Police take over UW Lifesaving Station rescue boat operations

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MADISON (WKOW) - UW Police are taking over the school's lifesaving station rescue boat operations, almost a year after a rescue boat hit and killed an experienced windsurfer on Lake Mendota.

The change in oversight for the rescue operation from the UW Department of Environment, Health and Safety to UW Police takes place after UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank requested a review of the lifesaving station's functioning, after the death of 43-year old Yu Chen.

Chen was killed May 31, 2017, when a rescue boat staffed by three station members hit him as he windsurfed, and as the boat returned from a rescue call.

There's been no fault assigned in the collision.  It remains under criminal investigation, with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne considering whether anyone involved was criminally liable in connection to what happened.

UW Police Captain Brent Plisch says the review found some lake rescue staff have decades of experience, but some worked with training that was less than what industry standards dictate.

"They did have a program they were running their employees through,"  Plisch says.  "That's obviously one thing that we looked at as to the depth of that training, how it was documented,"  he says.  "And based on our prior training changes we've made here at the department, our accreditation standards, we can take that training to next level."

Plisch says accreditation of staff training could come from the National Safe Boating Council, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

Plisch says the take over of administration of the operation will not affect current rescue boat staffers. He says there are two, full-time staff, and a dozen limited-term employees.

Police officials say they consider the rescue team vital to continued safety on Lake Mendota, as they work in concert with Dane County Sheriff and Madison Fire lake responders.

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