DNR officer dies during lake search

Officer was responding to call in Pine City when he was thrown from a boat

Sloane Martin
April 20, 2019 - 1:12 pm

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A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer is dead after falling from a boat into a lake on the east side of Pine City.

The body, identified by the DNR as that of Eugene Wynn, was found by search crews about 1:30 Saturday morning.  

“Words can’t describe the sense of loss we feel at this time,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement. “Officer Wynn’s service to the state of Minnesota is a debt we can never repay.”

“As a first responder, peace officer, and protector of Minnesota’s natural resources, Officer Eugene Wynn dedicated his life to keeping Minnesotans safe and making our state a better place to live," Gov. Tim Walz said. "Gwen and I send our deepest sympathies to his family and on behalf of the State of Minnesota, we thank him for his many years of selfless service.”

Officials from the Pine County sheriff's department says the officer had been called to Cross Lake about 7:45 Friday night on a report of a large object floating in the water, with the caller reportedly suggesting the object may have been a body.  

According to the DNR, Wynn and the deputy took off from shore in Wynn's boat to investigate when "within a minute" they were thrown from the boat and fell into the water. The deputy was treated for temperature-related injuries, according to the statement from authorities in Pine County. Rescuers were not able to reach Wynn, who fell below the water's surface.

The DNR said Wynn was 43 years old, and had been with the agency for 18 years. He is survived by a wife and two children.

“Officer Wynn served the Enforcement Division, the DNR, and the people of Minnesota with distinction," Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director, said. "We’re devastated by his loss and ask the people of Minnesota to keep Officer Wynn and his family in their thoughts during this difficult time.”

The Minnesota State Patrol and rescue crews in the area assisted in the search, which lasted several hours. 

The DNR says 22 conservation officers have died in the line of duty.

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