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DNR officer who drowned after falling from boat made 'abrupt turn'

A final update from the investigation into CO Eugene Wynn's death has been released.
Eugene Wynn

The DNR conservation officer who drowned in a Minnesota lake made an "abrupt turn" in the boat he was piloting that launched him and a Pine County deputy into the water.

The final update from the investigation into CO Eugene Wynn Jr.'s death has revealed what happened on Cross Lake in Pine City on the evening of Apr. 19.

Responding to a report of a possible body in the water of Cross Lake, Wynn and Pine County Deputy Scott Grice were launched on the lake in Wynn's DNR boat.

They had intended to circle around to pick up the other deputy, Cody LaRoue, who had backed the boat into the water.

"CO Wynn accelerated the boat away from shore and then suddenly made an abrupt left turn," the Pine County Sheriff's Office. "The boat corrected and both Wynn and Grice were thrown from the boat. The boat continued on its course until it beached on the west side of Cross Lake."

Witnesses on the southeast side of the lake saw Wynn and Grice in the water, with LaRoue getting a rowboat from a neighboring property to rescue them.

LaRoue paddled out to Grice, by which time Wynn was already under the water. Another deputy used a paddle boat to assist in the rescue, and ultimately ended up in the rowboat with LaRoue, who was holding onto Deputy Grice.

They were able to get Grice to shore, where he was taken to a local hospital and treated for temperature-related injuries.

Wynn's body was recovered hours later.

Property owners on the lake told police there was still large chunks of ice floating on the lake, but it's unknown if the abrupt turn made by Wynn was made due to debris in the water.

Nonetheless, nobody heard any impact while the boat was on the water.

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The investigation notes that neither Wynn or Grice were wearing lifejackets, which aren't required by law but are very much encouraged by the Pine County Sheriff's Office.

"We strongly recommend that all people that are enjoying the natural resources in Pine County use all safety devices that are appropriate. That would include life jackets, helmets, seatbelts, and tree stand safety harnesses.

"Accidents happen very quickly, even to the very well trained and experienced. The safety devices only work if people put them to use before an accident happens. In this case the officers were thrown from the boat within a minute of being on the water and were not able to continue swimming within minutes."

Wynn Jr. was 43-years-old and is survived by his wife and two children.

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