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Local conservation officer shares story of snowmobile rescue

MN DNR Conservation Officer Kylan Hill 01-21-20
MN DNR Conservation Officer Kylan Hill 01-21-20

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources responded to a call of lost snowmobilers just before 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19. A party of four snowmobilers from North Carolina had become stranded in a swamp on a seldom-used snowmobile trail near Ball Club Lake in Grand Marais and called 9-1-1 for help.

They were fortunate to have cell phone service in that area. And even more fortunate that there were DNR conservation officers in the area.

Lt. Dan Thomasen, Minnesota DNR conservation officer supervisor for the Arrowhead region, was on an ice fishing detail with local conservation officers Tom Wahlstrom and Kylan Hill, along with Dave Schottenbauer from Two Harbors.

The family group from La Grange, North Carolina— two sisters, one of their daughters and the daughter’s boyfriend —were on rented snowmobiles and were unfamiliar with the area. They realized they were lost, but told officers they thought they had assistance from two other snowmobilers, believed to be from St. Paul, who offered to lead them back to another main trail.

However, the ungroomed trail went through a swamp that was not entirely frozen. One of the riders leading the group fell off his snowmobile and was completely drenched. He and his companion told the North Carolinians that they needed to get him to safety and headed out.

Unfortunately, the Carolina riders were not able to follow and they became mired in the slush on the swampy trail. Two of the women in the party were showing signs of hypothermia when they made the 9-1-1 call.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office was able to determine their location, which was off the main Expressway snowmobile trail, on the old, unmaintained, Expressway trail.

Following the sheriff’s office directions, the DNR conservation officers were able to locate the lost snowmobilers and were able to bring the two women in their 70s out as quickly as possible. Cook County Ambulance was standing by on the Ball Club Road. The women were warmed up and were in good spirits, according to Conservation Officer Kylan Hill. 

The conservation officers also assisted the other members of the party in getting the heavy two-up machines they were using free from the slush and out of the woods.

WTIP's Rhonda Silence caught up with DNR Conservation Officer Kylan Hill who was involved in the rescue to learn what transpired.