Two weeks after his wedding, a Berger area man drowned when he was thrown from a personal watercraft he was operating in a residential lake on property west of Washington.
The fatal accident occurred shortly before 3:40 p.m. Sunday, May 6, in the lake off Hillside Farm Road, a private drive north of Bluff Road, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office reported.
The body of the victim, Lee A. Gildehaus, 47, was recovered about an hour later by Washington firefighters.
Deputy Fire Chief Tim Frankenberg said firefighters used sonar and dragging operations to locate the body which was about 6 to 8 feet below the surface.
The sheriff’s office said Gildehaus had been riding a jet ski on the 3- to 4-acre lake and had been turning in front of a dock to splash water on a group of people standing on the dock.
At one point as he approached the dock, the jet ski struck the dock, ejecting Gildehaus, according to the sheriff’s report. Gildehaus then struck a pontoon boat and went under the water.
After Gildehaus was pulled from the lake, he was evaluated by Washington Ambulance personnel and pronounced dead at the scene, according to Frankenberg.
Initially six firefighters went into the water but pulled out once the fire department’s marine units arrived. Three marine units, including one firefighter’s personal watercraft, were used in the search.
Frankenberg said Gildehaus was found in about 6 to 8 feet of water, but said just beyond where he was found, the lake dropped to a depth of about 18 feet. Frankenberg said the temperature of the water where the body was found was in the 50-degree range.
A marine unit from the state water patrol also was used. The Sullivan Fire District dive team was called but later disregarded.
Frankenberg said Gildehaus was not wearing a life preserver.
Frankenberg warned that no matter how large or small the body of water is, individuals should always wear a personal flotation device.
Gildehaus was married Saturday, April 21, at his farm.
A funeral service will be held Thursday, May 10, at 10 a.m. at Oltmann Funeral Home, Washington.
Burial will be in Bethel Cemetery, Labadie.
Visitation will be held from 2-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the funeral home.