Suicide prompts rest stop closure
On January 9 just after 4 p.m., the Pine County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol along with local fire and other emergency medical personnel were dispatched to the General Andrews State Forest rest area located on southbound Interstate Highway 35 south of Sturgeon Lake on a report of an unresponsive male sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot of the rest area.
When emergency personnel arrived, a male party was found slumped over in a vehicle and appeared deceased. Responders were overcome by heavy chemical vapors coming from inside the vehicle. A bucket containing bubbling white foam was observed on the front seat next to the victim and a note warning people to stay away was displayed on the dashboard.
Upon further inspection, a large wooden military ammunition crate was observed in the rear of the vehicle. The crate displayed military explosives labeling. Emergency responders evacuated the area and closed the rest area to the general public.
The Pine County sheriff contacted the Minnesota State Duty Officer and requested the assistance of regional emergency response teams. A chemical hazardous materials team was dispatched from the city of Duluth along with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office bomb squad. The FBI was notified and three agents responded.
After several hours, it was determined that there were not explosives inside the vehicle and the ammunition crate was empty. The chemical team inspected the inside the vehicle and determined the hazardous chemicals in the vehicle were placed there deliberately by the victim to commit suicide.
Five emergency personnel were treated and released from Essentia Hospital, Sandstone, for chemical vapor exposure. The chemicals involved in this incident were household cleaning agents.
It has been determined that this is an isolated incident and there is no danger to the public.
This incident continues to be investigated by the Pine County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol.