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Published: Thursday, 8/4/2011

Boat crash kills Kelleys Island woman

Jennifer Ulisse Jennifer Ulisse

BALLAST ISLAND, Ohio -- The Coast Guard Wednesday identified Jennifer Ulisse of Kelleys Island as the person killed when a 27-foot pleasure boat slammed into a break wall near one of northwest Ohio's Lake Erie islands in a crash that injured two others. Ms. Ulisse, a passenger on the boat, was pronounced dead at the scene, the Coast Guard said.

The crash also injured two others -- the operator, Donald Dunn, 61, of Put-in-Bay, and passenger Tina Callari, 48, of Lakewood, Ohio.

Mr. Dunn and Ms. Callari were said to have sustained torso, extremity, and head injuries and were taken to area hospitals: Ms. Callari was first taken to H.B. Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton, then transferred to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. Mr. Dunn was taken straight to St. Vincent.

A hospital spokesman said Wednesday night that Mr. Dunn was in serious condition and Ms. Callari was in fair condition.

Mr. Dunn, a licensed boat captain, runs the harbor taxi out of the Boardwalk Restaurant on Put-in-Bay. As of Wednesday night, friends of Ms. Ulisse on Kelleys Island where she lived and worked, were struggling with what happened Tuesday night.

"The captain is a very experienced captain; we're not quite sure what happened," local restaurant owner Gary Finger said.

Mr. Finger owns The Village Pump with his wife, Jackie. Both worked with Ms. Ulisse for a number of years, and said she was well-liked.

Co-workers described her as outspoken, fun, and vibrant.

A Coast Guard vessel, which was in the area when the crash was reported, arrives at the docks to bring a victim onto Catawba Island. A Coast Guard vessel, which was in the area when the crash was reported, arrives at the docks to bring a victim onto Catawba Island.

"She was a very big part of our community here on Kelleys Island," Mr. Finger said. "She will be very well missed. Our hearts go out on behalf of everybody here on Kelleys Island."

He said Ms. Ulisse had most recently been working at Kelleys Landing, formerly Kelleys Cove, a gift shop across the street from his restaurant.

The exact cause and circumstances of the incident off Ballast Island was unknown. The area was experiencing storms and waves of about 3 feet were reported, said Bill Staiger, northern region manager for the Ohio Division of Watercraft.

Ottawa County's 911 system received a call about the collision and the injured people about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. That report was relayed to the Coast Guard, which happened to have a vessel in the area and responded quickly, Don Chase, Detroit command center search and rescue controller, said.

They recovered Mr. Dunn and Ms. Callari, and found Ms. Ulisse unresponsive in the water.

Officers said the victims were not wearing life jackets.

Ballast Island is a small privately owned island just east of Middle Bass, about a quarter of a mile northeast of Put-in-Bay.

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