Two Snowmobilers Die on the River in Separate Incidents

The upper and lower river both claimed lives in Feb. 16 drownings.

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Map of Feb. 16 fatal snowmobile accidents
Map of Feb. 16 fatal snowmobile accidents

One winter Saturday last weekend claimed the lives of two men snowmobiling on the river. The incidents on Feb. 16 were separated by about seven hours and 70 miles of river.

Bayport, MN – 11:54 a.m.

Open water where discharge from the Allen S. King power plant enters the river claimed the life of Billy Meister, a Hudson High School graduate and member of the family which owns the popular Meister’s restaurant in Stillwater.

The incident was immediately reported to police by witnesses, and Meister was pulled from the river after being in the water about 20 minutes. He was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital. Stillwater Patch provided some details:

It appears the snowmobiler rode through open water about 75 yards off the shore, near Point Road in Bayport, Starry said.

“It’s always open water there, and there are signs all over,” [Washington County sherrif deputy Daniel]¬†Starry told the Pioneer Press. “I mean, he went right past the signs.”

The incident remains under investigation.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Stillwater, Oak Park Heights and Bayport police departments, the Washington County Dive Team and Bayport Fire Department responded to the scene.

First responders got the air boat to the scene pretty quick, Starry said.

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Pine County, MN – 6:41 p.m.

When a group of snowmobilers riding on trails near the river got disoriented, they started riding on the river to find their way out. Unfortunately, one rider hit open water and was likely swept away by the current. His snowmobile was recovered, but the body has not yet been found. The Burnett County Sentinel reports:

The accident took place about four miles north of the Soderbeck River Landing at the end of Pine County Road 10, close to where the Kettle River flows into the St. Croix.

Pine and Burnett county deputies along with Pine City Firefighters and the National Park Service responded to the scene. which had no direct road access and was located in the wilderness of the St. Croix River National Scenic Waterway.

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The search for the man’s body was called off on Sunday due to dangerous conditions and difficult terrain in the remote section of the upper river.