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Update: Authorities locate owner of abandoned, scorched snowmobile

There wasn't much left beyond the frame and a few other large, metal parts.
benton county snowmobile jan 2022 crop

Minnesota authorities have found the owner of an abandoned snowmobile found melted on a frozen lake.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office had asked for the public's help figuring out who left the burnt wreckage behind on Little Rock Lake last week. The vehicle was destroyed (see the photo above), with just the frame and a few other large, metal parts still recognizable. 

On Wednesday, the office provided a brief update: That morning, authorities were able to get in touch with the left-behind snowmobile's owner. 

Sheriff Troy Heck said the incident is still under investigation, so they can't say much else. However, Heck said the owner blamed the fire on a "mechanical malfunction."

Minnesota DNR CO Ryan Hanna previously told Bring Me The News the person responsible could face some form of littering charge, as they essentially left behind a "pile of rubble."

"It would have been one thing if they would have reported it to us, and obviously we can work with them," Hanna said Tuesday. "For them to just kind of leave it and just kind of call it quits, that's where I start to have issues."

You can read our original story from Tuesday afternoon below.

Original story

Authorities are trying to get to the bottom of a curious discovery: A snowmobile burnt almost beyond recognition, abandoned on a frozen lake.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office learned of the left-behind vehicle around 10 a.m. on Jan. 15, with a citizen reporting the scorched snowmobile out on the ice of Little Rock Lake, according to a news release. There, about 50 feet from the shore on the lake's east side, deputies found a snowmobile chassis that had been "completely consumed" by fire, 

"It essentially melted the snowmobile because it got so hot," DNR Conservation Officer Ryan Hanna, who was looped in to the investigation, told Bring Me The News. The caller hadn't seen the blaze, only the aftermath, and by the time authorities got there the remains were already cold to the touch, Hanna said.

Related: 'It's disgusting': Anglers dumping sewage on to popular ice fishing lake

Deputies on the site found the snowmobile's frame and a few other "substantial" metal parts were all that survived the fire, and had since become firmly trapped in the frozen lake surface, the sheriff's office said. Unable to find any identifying marks (such as a VIN) that might lead them to the owner, authorities left the scene. They planned to return at a later date, once they determined how to get the debris out of the ice.

Then things got even a bit more peculiar.

Five days later, someone called to say portions of the burnt snowmobile had been removed from the ice and dumped along the side of nearby Sucker Creek Road NW. And indeed, deputies found snowmobile parts left on the roadside.

Now authorities are trying to figure out what happened and who is responsible.

"You've got a big ball of flame on Little Rock Lake and nobody reports it?" Hanna told Bring Me The News, later adding: "It would have been one thing if they would have reported it to us, and obviously we can work with them. For them to just kind of leave it and just kind of call it quits, that's where I start to have issues."

The Benton County Sheriff's Office said evidence at the scene suggests the snowmobile began leaking a combustible fluid which then ignited, but nothing is certain right now. Hanna said there's not much to go off of, other than a few footprints and the "pile of rubble" that was left behind. 

The person responsible could face some form of littering charge if identified, he said.

Anyone who knows what happened or who might be involved is asked to call the Benton County Sheriff’s Office at 320-968-7201, or Tri-County Crime Stoppers at 800-255-1301,

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