Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Press reports
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Hunter rescued from Nemadji Forest

Man rationed food, water while lost


September 28, 2017

Pictured is 61-year-old Robert Kniefel of Lakeville, who was lost in Pine County's Nemadji Forest, being rescued by a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter. Photo is a screenshot from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety rescue video.

On Tuesday, September 19, at 6:45 a.m., Pine County dispatch received information about a lost hunter, identified as 61-year-old Robert Kniefel of Lakeville, 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 from where the call came. A search of the all-terrain vehicle (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 Minnesota conservation officers, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry, Mille Tribal DNR officers and Minnesota State Patrol aircraft. Family and friends were on the scene as well and assisted in searching alongside rescue personnel.

A Pine County officer was able to exchange some text messages with Kniefel until cell phone connection was again lost. It was believed his cell phone battery was no longer charged as of Tuesday evening.

During the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, there were in excess of 50 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/nonprofits with K9 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 nighttime search on Tuesday.

On Wednesday evening, the Minnesota State Patrol assisted in a nighttime search with their airplane and thermal imaging equipment. The plane located a person on an island with a fire going at around 9 p.m., south of the Net Lake Campground area and west of Beldon Road 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 Kniefel. The rescue crew and helicopter had to airlift him from the island via a rope/harness system as the chopper could not land on the island.

Kniefel was transported to a farm field near Nickerson where medical personnel were waiting. He was reunited with family after getting checked by medical personnel. Kniefel, who had food and water with him, stated he rationed his food and knew help was looking for him.

For reference, the Nemadji State Forest area encompasses approximately 92,000 acres and contains hundreds of miles of ATV and snowmobile trails.


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