Pine City’s DNR Conservation Officer Eugene Wynn has died and a Pine County deputy was hospitalized after the two men were thrown from their boat while searching Cross Lake on April 19.
According to reports from the Pine County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, on April 19 at about 7:44 p.m. Pine County dispatchers received a call from anglers fishing on the shore of Cross Lake. The witnesses reported a possible human body in the water.
Wynn and Sergeant Scott Grice of the Pine County Sheriff’s Office joined other deputies in responding to the scene. They were not able to determine what the object in the water was from the shore. Wynn got his boat, and he and Grice launched the boat and motored away from shore.
Within a minute of leaving the launch both Wynn and Grice were thrown from the boat into the frigid water. They began swimming towards shore. Additional deputies,
with the help of neighbors, procured a row boat and attempted to rescue the officers in the water.
Rescuers successfully reached Grice and retrieved him from the water. He was later transported by ambulance to FirstLight Hospital in Mora where he was treated for temperature-related injuries and released.
Wynn slipped beneath the water before rescuers were able to get to him.
An intensive search was conducted by the Pine County Sheriff’s Office, the DNR and numerous other agencies, including the Minnesota State Patrol, the Wisconsin DNR, Chisago County Sheriff’s Office, the Pine City Fire Department, the Stacy/Lent Fire Department, St. Louis County Rescue and Essentia Ambulance.
Wynn’s body was recovered at about 1:35 a.m.
The Pine County Sheriff’s Office reports that efforts have been made to locate the object that was initially reported, but have not been successful. They said there are no reports of a missing person and no further searches will be conducted at this time.
Midwest Medical Examiners have conducted an autopsy and the cause of the boat accident that led to Wynn’s death is under investigation.
‘A debt we can never repay’
Wynn was 43 years old and an 18 year veteran of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources when he died in the line of duty on April 19. He is survived by his wife and two children.
DNR officials stated that Wynn is the 22nd Minnesota conservation officer to die in the line of duty.
“Words can’t describe the sense of loss we feel at this time,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “Officer Wynn’s service to the state of Minnesota is a debt we can never repay.”
Colonel Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director, said, “Officer Wynn served the Enforcement Division, the DNR, and the people of Minnesota with distinction. 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.”
“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,” said Governor Tim Walz. “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.”