MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Eugene Wynn has died after an incident on Cross Lake in Pine City Friday evening.
The Pine County Sheriff’s office says Wynn and county deputies responded to a call about a possible body spotted in the lake at about 7:45 p.m. Wynn and a deputy went out onto the lake in a DNR boat but were somehow thrown into the water a few minutes later.
Rescue efforts to save Wynn and the deputy happened in the water right in front of Barbara Videen’s cabin, an area now marked with orange buoys.
The family’s cabin sits right next to a boat launch near the Cross Lake Dam.
“You could tell it was really hard for them because it was one of their own that was missing,” Videen said.
Authorities gathered at the boat launch Friday night to search when they learned two of their fellow officers fell in the water. They used the Videen family’s old paddle boat to try and save the men.
“He was out there, struggling to hang on to him, he kept yelling his name saying stay with us,” said Katie Schwartz, Videen’s daughter.
The deputy was eventually pulled to shore, but Wynn had slipped under water before he was able to be saved.
“When it changed from being a rescue to … a recovery, the whole atmosphere changed,” said Videen.
Authorities were able to recover Wynn’s body early Saturday morning.
Videen says the water on the lake is high and it’s still too risky to put out their boat dock.
“All of the ice from other parts of the lake come up and there’s a strong current that goes right along the river,” Videen said. “To have a spouse or a family member go out on a rescue and then to learn that they’re the victims … how awful that must be.”
In a written press release, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office did call the incident an accident and said they are investigating exactly what happened on the lake.
Wynn’s official cause of death will come from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.
The deputy involved was treated and released from a hospital in Mora.
The object initially spotted in the lake was not located. The sheriff’s office is investigating.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz released this statement Saturday afternoon about Wynn’s passing:
“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.
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.”