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FOUND: Missing Hunter in Pine County Rescued After Three Days

From the Pine County Sheriff's Department:


On September 19th at 6:45 am Pine County dispatch received information about a lost hunter in the Nemadji Forest area of Pine County. The missing hunter was the caller and due to poor cell phone connectivity, information was limited.

Pine County deputies were dispatched to the area believed to be where the call came from. A search of the atv trails from east of Kerrick and Bruno was initiated. Additional resources were called in from the Kerrick and Bruno Fire Departments, as well as MN Conservation officers, Minnesota DNR Forestry, Mille Tribal DNR Officers and Minnesota State Patrol aircraft. Family and friends were on scene as well and assisted in searching alongside rescue personnel.

A Pine County Officer was able to exchange some text messages with the missing hunter until cell phone connection was again lost. It was believed that the hunter’s cell phone battery was no longer charged as of Tuesday evening.

During the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, there were in excess of fifty searchers in the Pine County area alone. Additional searches were in place in Douglas County, Wisconsin due to the extent of the search area. A helicopter from the Minnesota State Patrol flew the area on Tuesday. A DNR helicopter flew the area on Wednesday. Aerial searches of the area were made difficult by the still heavy foliage in place. Private/non-profit K-9 search dogs called to indicate their availability to assist and were called in as well. Hundreds of miles of area atv/snowmobile and hiking trails were checked by Wednesday evening with no results. Unavailability of thermal imaging equipment and a plane, followed by the thunderstorms through the area did not allow for a night time search on Tuesday.

On Wednesday evening, the Minnesota State patrol assisted in a night time search with their airplane and thermal imaging equipment. The plane located a person on an island with a fire going at around 9:00 PM, south of the Net Lake Campground area and west of Beldon Rd in Pine County. Rescue personnel worked with the aircraft to find a way to the person through a swampy area but were unsuccessful in the dark.

On Thursday morning, just after sunrise, a helicopter from the Minnesota State Patrol, with their rescue extraction team on board, located the missing hunter. The rescue crew and helicopter had to airlift the hunter from the island via a rope/harness system as the chopper could not land on the island. The missing hunter was transported to a farm field near Nickerson where medical personnel were waiting. The now found hunter was identified as Robert Kniefel, age 61, of Lakeville, Minnesota. Mr. Kniefel was reunited with family after getting checked by medical personnel. Mr. Kniefel, who had food and water with him, stated he rationed his food and knew help was looking for him. For reference, the Nemadji Forest area encompasses approximately 92,000 acres and contains hundreds of miles of ATV and snowmobile trails.

From the Minnesota State Patrol:

"The Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team helped rescue a missing grouse hunter this morning from a heavily wooded area in Pine County along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. The man had been lost since Monday.

Crews searched for the 61-year-old man for two days with no luck until about 11 p.m. Wednesday. The MART’s thermal camera helped locate the man and he was rescued just after 8 a.m. today. He was taken to an area hospital.The MART is a partnership between the State Patrol and Saint Paul Fire Department.

The team specializes in search and rescue missions. More: "

(photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Patrol)

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