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UPDATE: Body of man missing 5 days found inside submerged vehicle

The Minnesota State Patrol reported a 2006 Ford Fusion driven by the man originally from Blaine was southbound on Highway 371 in Pequot Lakes when it went into the right ditch and rolled into the lake.

Responders stand on shore and in a pontoon boat on West Twin Lake
Emergency responders Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, work at the scene of a vehicle crash believed to have occurred early Saturday morning at West Twin Lake along the southbound lanes of Highway 371 in Pequot Lakes.
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PEQUOT LAKES — A 26-year-old Lake Shore man — missing for five days since not showing up for work Saturday morning — was found dead Wednesday, Sept. 28, inside a submerged vehicle in West Twin Lake.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported a 2006 Ford Fusion driven by the man originally from Blaine was southbound on Highway 371 in Pequot Lakes when it went into the right ditch and rolled into the lake. The road condition at the time of the crash was wet, the state patrol reported.

The driver was not wearing a seat belt, according to the crash report, and the airbag did not deploy. The identity of the driver was withheld Wednesday pending notification of family.

Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said his department received a report Wednesday morning about the missing man, who was expected at work 6 a.m. Saturday but never arrived.

“He didn’t show up for work for three shifts — very unlike him,” Klang said.

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The man left the Pequot Lakes apartment of a friend about 5:20 a.m. Saturday. Klang said dispatchers alerted other local law enforcement to be on the lookout for the Ford Fusion after attempts to both call and ping the man’s cellphone were unsuccessful.

Klang said he decided Wednesday afternoon to drive the route the man would have followed to work and look for anything suspicious.

“I was just checking the ditches or any possibility where he might have jumped over some trees or something like that, where he might have gone in the ditch and nobody had seen him,” Klang said. “ … When I got down to West Twin Lake, I saw some marks — vehicle tracks, skid marks — that looked like it had gone down into the ditch. So then I stopped and contacted my dispatch to ask if there was any accident in the last week reported at that location, and there hadn’t been.”

Marks on the roadway near a crash site
Marks are seen Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022,on the shoulder of Highway 371 near West Twin Lake. Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said he noticed the marks when searching for clues that could lead to the whereabouts of a 26-year-old man missing since Saturday morning.
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Klang said a closer look showed no footprints or any indication of a tow truck pulling a vehicle out of the area. That’s when he noticed a place near the bottom of the bank where it appeared something moved around dirt and left an impression. At that point, Klang began to suspect a vehicle skidded on its side into the water. A side mirror cap found near the scene featured a number marking confirming it belonged to the missing vehicle, he said.

“I went to a neighbor across the lake and I asked him if he’d give me a ride out to the location, and then we went out there and looked in the water and I wasn’t able to see anything,” Klang said. “ … Then Crow Wing (County Dive Team) came out with their divers and they did locate the vehicle.”

Grass is disturbed near the shore of a lake where a crash occurred
Vegetation appears disturbed at the shore of West Twin Lake in Pequot Lakes Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, near where a vehicle was found submerged with a body inside by the Crow Wing County Dive Team. Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said he noticed skid marks and more evidence of a crash while searching for clues related to the disappearance of a 26-year-old man.
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The murky water in the 15- to 20-foot depth meant divers couldn’t see much more, so a tow company assisted by towing the vehicle, which landed 30-35 feet from shore on its roof. The man’s body was found inside.

“It went in upside down, so it probably skimmed across the water and floated for a little bit,” Klang said. “All the windows were up in the vehicle.”

Klang said the members of the man’s family arrived in the area Wednesday to form a search party to look for him and stopped at the scene after noticing responders at the site of the crash.

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“It’s pretty tragic. Really sad,” Klang said. “It’s always tough to see a young person like that. You know, I’ve got kids myself and it’s really hard. It’s devastating for the family.”

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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