The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has presented two conservation officers with the DNR Lifesaving Award for a rescue operation in northeastern Minnesota involving an ATV operator who was thrown from his vehicle and became incapacitated.

State conservation officers Sean Williams of Ely and Marc Hopkins of Tower were called on Sept. 17 to help emergency responders locate 77-year-old John C. Lind missing since the previous day when he left his home in Hoyt Lakes on a planned ATV ride to Aurora.

“I didn’t know the trail and got lost,” Lind said.

Concern for the missing man was escalating due to his age and the fact that he had diabetes and had no diabetic supplies with him at the time he went missing. During the time he was missing, there was intermittent rain, downpours and cool fall-like temperatures.

When conservation officers arrived to search, Curt Erickson of the St. Louis County Volunteer Rescue Squad said, “The game wardens are here, so now we’ll find him.”

“Their dogged determination, always being prepared, and willingness to be involved make conservation officers great team players in rescue operations,” Erickson said. “I’ve never had a bad experience with conservation officers; they’ve always been a great group to work with.”

Hopkins and Williams, who paired up on the search, noticed the area had already been heavily travelled by rescue personnel, but they located a faint ATV trail which split off from the main trail system.

The faint trail continued through a brush-choked, swampy area that led to a creek where Williams and Hopkins discovered Lind’s ATV, still running, with its front wheels stuck in the muddy water.

Media contact: Rich Sprouse,  information officer, DNR Enforcement Division,  800-366-8917, ext. 2511, richard.sprouse@state.mn.us. 

Lind had been thrown from his ATV and was lying stuck in a wet mud hole, up to his chest, and unable to move. He was conscious and able to communicate, but was showing signs of hypothermia after being exposed to rain and cool conditions for over 20 hours while stuck in the mud and wearing only shorts, a T-shirt and sandals.

“The mud just sucked me down. I couldn’t get any footing to get myself out,” Lind said.

Williams and Hopkins pulled Lind from the hole and warmed him until more rescue personnel arrived.

“They took off their jackets and wrapped them around me to warm me up,” Lind said. “Their training saved my life.”

Lind said he was happy to see his rescuers arrive.

“Williams joked he didn’t come to find me, but check my ATV license, which I found pretty funny,” Lind said.

Lind’s wife, Brenda, said the family is thankful for the rescue. “I don’t know if anyone else would have gone back there to find him. Thank you, thank you a million times.”

DNR Enforcement Director Col. Ken Soring added, “Thanks to Williams’ and Hopkins’ observation skills and willingness to take the path less travelled, they clearly saved the life of a man who may not have survived another night of exposure to the elements.”

John Lind said he’ll be back on his ATV once it’s repaired.

“But I’m not riding alone anymore,” he said.