Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff Report
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Willow River man charged with vehicular homicide


September 26, 2019

Preston Paul Prokasky

On September 18, formal charges were filed against the driver of the vehicle involved in the incident on September 16 in the Kettle River.

Preston Paul Prokasky of Willow River was charged by the Pine County Attorney's Office with two counts: criminal vehicular homicide - operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner and criminal vehicular homicide - operating a motor vehicle with any amount of schedule one or schedule two controlled substance.

Prokasky appeared in court on September 18 and is due back in court on September 24.

According to the complaint, on September 16 Pine County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Kettle River in the River Run Road area of Willow River based on a report that a vehicle had gone into the river and a person was still inside.

When the deputy arrived, there was no vehicle visible in the river. Two males, identified as Gerald Darkow, Jr. and Preston Paul Prokasky, were near the bank of the river. The deputy noted that Darkow was not wearing a shirt, his jeans were wet and he only had on one shoe. Prokasky was wearing wet jeans and a wet shirt. There was no vehicle access to the river from their location.

When questioned, Prokasky said he was driving his Ford Escape with Eugene Oestreich in the front passenger seat and Darkow in the back seat. Prokasky decided to drive across the river; he said he did not know the river was so deep and thought they could make it across. When the Escape started to sink he climbed out the driver's side window. Darkow climbed out after him. Oestreich did not make it out of the car.

Rescue personnel searched the river for the vehicle and Oestreich. An investigator spoke with Darkow. Darkow said they had been at Prokasky's residence just before they went to the river. According to Darkow, Prokaksy told them he was going to drive across the river. Darkow told him not to do it and to let him out of the vehicle. Prokasky said they would make it and drove into the water. They started to float so Prokasky and Darkow climbed out the driver's side window. Oestreich was still in the vehicle and Darkow did not see him again.

The investigator spoke to Prokasky who said they had been in Rutledge and he had the idea to drive across the river. They were on the side of the river approximately 20 to 30 minutes before he drove into the water. When asked what they were doing before they drove into the river, Prokasky would not provided a detailed answer, saying they had been on a "wild goose chase."

Oestreich, according to Prokasky, was a friend who had been living with him until the previous night when Prokasky had kicked him out. Prokasky said that Oestreich had rolled up his window as they went into the water and told him that he couldn't swim. When the vehicle started going under water, Prokasky rolled down his window. He also admitted to using methamphetamine with Darkow and Oestreich earlier in the day.

Darkow and Prokasky were told to stay at the scene. The investigator present discovered shortly after that they had left. The deputy found Prokasky at his residence. He was arrested and a warrant was issued for a sample of his blood. He cooperated with providing a blood sample, which was sent for analysis. If methamphetamine was used earlier in the day it would test as present in his system according to the deputy's training.

The Ford Escape was eventually located submerged in approximately 14 feet of water. Mr. Oestreich was inside and was determined to be deceased.

Arriving on the scene on the sandy side of the river where Prokaksy had driven in, a deputy determined that the access gate on Willow Street was supposed to be locked, but was not locked when he arrived. Where Prokasky said he had driven in there was not a natural path to the river as there was a sharp drop off between the sandy area where vehicle tracks and a debris area. The water current was visible and the bottom of the river was not; there had been significant rain in recent weeks.

Facing two felony charges, Prokasky could see maximum penalties of 10 years and/or $20,000 for each count of criminal vehicular homicide.

The Medical Examiner's Office has listed drowning as the preliminary cause of death for the victim, Eugene Oestreich of Willow River.


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