Snowmobile, car accidents take 2 lives

washco sheriff badgeTwo St. Croix Valley men died in separate and unrelated incidents over the last few days.
About noon Saturday, a 22-year-old Stillwater man identified as Billy Meister drowned in a snowmobile accident on the St. Croix River in Bayport. According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the snowmobile Meister was driving broke through an area of thin ice near the Xcel Energy’s Allen S. King power plant which has a warm water feed into the river. A WCSO spokesman said “thin ice” warning signs were reportedly posted near the area where Meister’s snowmobile went into the river.
Multiple agencies responded to the call and rescuers pulled Meister from the water about 20 minutes are he went through the ice. Meister was taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was declared dead on arrival. The accident remains under investigation.
Meister was one of two snowmobilers to fall through thin ice on the St. Croix River Saturday. The Pine County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call about 6:30 p.m. Saturday that a snowmobiler had broken through river ice in the St. Croix River National Scenic Waterway.
A PCSO news release said two other snowmobilers told authorities they were riding on the frozen river in the dark when the victim hit a large patch of open water. He was thrown from his machine and disappeared.
Authorities believe the victim, whose name was withheld pending notification of relatives, might have been swept downstream and under the ice pack. Responders found a partially submerged snowmobile on the edge of a large area of turbulent open water, but no sign of the victim.
Sheriff’s deputies from Pine County and Burnett County, Wis., and personnel from the Pine City Fire Department and National Park Service searched the area on foot, by snowmobile and helicopter Saturday night and resumed the search Sunday morning before dangerous conditions Sunday afternoon led authorities to suspend the search.
Meanwhile, Minnesota State Patrol investigators said a 59-year-old Lake Elmo man, identified in an MSP accident report as Michael Reinhardt, apparently died after suffering a medical emergency while driving on Minnesota 36 the evening of Feb. 13.
Reinhardt was traveling east on MN 36 when the vehicle he was driving struck another vehicle stopped in the left turn lane at the Oakgreen Avenue intersection, according to an MSP report.
The report said investigators believe Reinhardt suffered a cardiac arrest prior to the crash. The report added that the driver of the other vehicle, a 34-year-old Hugo woman, suffered minor injuries.