An east-central Minnesota man was under the influence of methamphetamine when he mistakenly believed he could drive his SUV across a river, but instead sank and killed one of his two passengers, according to charges filed Wednesday.
Preston P. Prokasky, 43, of Willow River, was charged in Pine County District Court with criminal vehicular homicide in connection with his SUV plunging into the Kettle River early Monday evening. Prokasky remains jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail ahead of a court appearance Tuesday.
The passenger who died from an apparent drowning was identified as Eugene J. Oestrich, 47, of Willow River.
Prokasky and 48-year-old Gerald O. Darkow Jr., 48, of nearby Sandstone, escaped from the SUV, which came to rest in 14 feet of water.
A deputy met up with Prokasky and Darkow, both in soaking-wet clothes, near the riverbank in Willow River.
Prokasky said he “decided to drive across the river,” the criminal complaint read. “Prokasky said he did not know the river was so deep.”
Prokasky and Darkow climbed out their windows as the SUV sank. Oestrich failed to get out.
In a later interview, Prokasky said Oestrich rolled up his window as they entered the river and said he couldn’t swim. Prokasky admitted he and the other two had used methamphetamine earlier in the day.
Prokasky had dilated pupils and erratic eye movement at the scene and also had difficulty standing, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in court seeking permission to test his blood.
Court records in Minnesota show that Prokasky has been charged three times previously with driving under the influence. In the first two cases, he was able to have the charge dropped in exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser count. He pleaded guilty in the third case to the under the influence count, which also included him admitting to possessing marijuana in the vehicle.