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Duluth man dies while hiking in Boundary Waters

A 27-year-old Duluth man hiking in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with friends died following a medical emergency, authorities said Tuesday.

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A 27-year-old Duluth man hiking in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with friends died following a medical emergency, authorities said Tuesday.

The man was located at about 4 a.m. Tuesday, deep in the BWCAW northeast of Orr, said Lt. Kurt Erickson of the St. Louis County Rescue Squad.

“We were able to find him seven miles into the Boundary Waters on the Sioux-Hustler Trail,” Erickson said. “Whatever the cause of his medical emergency, it appeared to have claimed his life.”

The man’s body was transported out of the BWCAW and taken to a medical examiner. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office and medical examiner will conduct an investigation into the death, Erickson said. The identity of the man was being withheld Tuesday pending the notification of family and friends.

The death does not appear suspicious, the sheriff’s office reported.

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The Sioux-Hustler Trail is a 30-mile loop trail in the Boundary Waters, with a trailhead off the Echo Trail - County Road 116 - about 30 miles northeast of Orr.

The sheriff’s office reported that the man and two friends had set off on a backpacking trip on Friday, and the man fell ill during the trek. By Monday, with the group in the Devil’s Cascade area, he was unable to continue hiking.

One of the friends “decided he needed to hike out to get medical help, because the person basically passed out and was unable to walk anymore,” Erickson said. “The other friend stayed with him.”

The friend who hiked out placed a call for help just after 6 p.m. Monday, the sheriff’s office reported.

The rescue mission began at about 7 p.m. Monday and was hampered by snow, sleet, rain and cold, Erickson said, as crews attempted to access the man by boat and foot from the north and south, respectively.

Rescue squad members, working in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, Orr and Crane Lake ambulance and first responders, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service officers, traversed Crane and Loon Lakes by boats from the north, while a foot rescue team headed in from the Echo Trail to the south.

“We did a middle-of-the-night insertion by boat and foot; we didn’t know who would get to him easier,” Erickson said. “It was a highly cooperative effort. There was a lot of bad weather last night and we ended up with a couple inches of snow. We were having to fight that and work through that.”

The man’s body and his friend were taken out by the boat crews, which had left from Handberg Marina on Crane Lake. The boats crossed several portages and encountered low-water mud flats that “proved to be a significant challenge, having to pick and choose where to find enough water out there in the middle of the night,” Erickson said.

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Search crews still were exiting the area as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

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