Allegan man faces felony charges after his friend loses a leg in Gun Lake boating incident

Michael Butzke, 21, of Allegan was arraigned Monday, June 18, 2018, on one count of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury after his friend lost a leg in a Gun Lake boating accident. (WWMT/contributed)

An Allegan man was charged with a felony Monday in connection with a boating accident Sunday that ended with a Howell man getting his leg amputated.

Michael Butzke, 21, of Allegan, was arraigned June 18, 2018, for one count of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury. He posted bond and was released. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and be ordered to pay up to $5,000 in fines. He also could lose his freedom to drive a boat.

Investigators accuse Butzke of being intoxicated while operating the boat when the accident occurred.

Around 5:15 p.m. Sunday on Gun Lake. Witnesses said that Butzke was driving the boat and when he made a turn, one of the passengers, Cameron Cichosz, 20, of Howell, went off the side. As the boat continued the turn, the stern swung over the man who had fallen in the water and the propeller amputated his leg.

Sheriff Dar Leaf says a Michigan State Trooper was the first person to apply a tourniquet to help Cichosz. Leaf believes two doctors from Detroit, who happened to be on a pontoon boat nearby, medically assisted the trooper.

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office, the Orangeville Fire Department and the Michigan State Police were called to assist. After the emergency teams got Cichosz to shore, he was transported to Butterworth Spectrum Hospital by Wayland EMS.

The marine division of the sheriff’s office is investigating, and said that alcohol was a contributing factor to the incident.

Deputies say the incident serves as a reminder to not drink while operating a boat and to be careful when jumping out.

"You're at the front of the boat. The boat is moving, the propeller is spinning hard. There's a lot of power in that," Leaf said.

"You definitely don't want to jump off a boat while it's running or moving," said Brian Elzinga, a Gun Lake boater.

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