Minnesota conservation officer dies while responding to call on Cross Lake

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(Minnesota DNR)

A Minnesota Conservation Officer died while responding to a call of a possible body in the water Friday night near Pine City.

According to the Pine County Sheriff's Office, at about 7:44 p.m., dispatch received a call of a possible body in the water in Cross Lake. The call came from a witness fishing from the shore.

A deputy and a conservation officer responded, but were not able to identify the object from the shoreline. So, the conservation officer got his boat, and he and a deputy launched it into Cross Lake.

According to a release, within a minute of leaving the launch, both officers were thrown from the boat into the water. They began swimming towards shore and additional deputies attempted to rescue them using a nearby row boat. 

When authorities reached the deputy, they retrieved him, and he was transported to the hospital.

However, the Conservation Officer went under the water before authorities could get to him. Officials say the conservation officer's body was recovered at about 1:35 a.m. after an intensive search.

The Minnesota DNR identified the officer who died as Eugene Wynn, who patrolled the Pine City station since 2001. He is survived by his wife and two children. 

Wynn is the 22nd conservation officer in Minnesota 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." 

DNR Enforcement Division Director Col. Rodmen Smith 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 Office Wynn and his family in their thoughts during this difficult time." 

The Pine County Sheriff's Office is investigating the cause the accident. Officials did not recover the object that was initially reported.

Statement from Gov. Tim Walz:

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.