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Wisconsin hunter experiences ‘miraculous’ recovery

Conservation officers helped transport injured man out of the woods in Iron County

Ed Mongin, 81, of Coleman, Wisconsin, is lucky to be alive.

He was hunting with a group of 10 others on federal land Nov. 17 in Iron County, Michigan when the top of a tree fell and struck him on the head, causing severe injury.

The group of hunters, whose members were all from Wisconsin except one from Colorado, were familiar with the area and were using radios to stay in communication.

When Mongin didn’t answer an attempt to contact him, the group went to his hunting location and found the fallen section of the tree on top of him, blown down in a windstorm.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Alex VanWagner and probationary conservation officer Kyle Romzek received the report of an injured hunter from area dispatchers.

The officers met a member from the hunting party north of Smoky Lake Road, east of the Pendleton Creek, who led them about 1 mile into the woods to Mongin’s location.

Mongin was able to communicate that he thought he was paralyzed and that they not move him.

VanWagner and Romzek determined that an ambulance would not be able to make it through the muddy, swamp terrain.

The two officers met Aspirus Iron River Hospital EMS personnel along Smoky Lake Road and transported them with their medical equipment on the back of their DNR patrol truck to Mongin’s location.

Members from the hunting group cleared trees to make a path.

EMS and officers provided first-aid treatment at the scene for head and possible spinal injuries, and securely placed Mongin on a backboard, then on the back of the patrol truck.

Once out to the main road, VanWagner drove the ambulance so both EMS workers could tend to Mongin, while Romzek followed behind in the DNR patrol truck.

Mongin was later transported from Aspirus Iron River Hospital via EMS MedEvac helicopter to a hospital in Wausau, Wisconsin for further treatment.

Doctor’s originally told Mongin’s family that he was lucky to be alive and probably would not walk again following head and vertebrae surgery. 

Several days later, VanWagner contacted family members who said Mongin regained mobility in all limbs, stood up for the first time and was able to have a conversation.

His doctors described his recovery as “miraculous.” 

“Our camp members want to thank VanWagner and Romzek for their effort and professionalism,” said Mike Kinziger of Pound, Wisconsin in an email to the DNR. “They responded in a very timely manner to a remote location. They not only coordinated with several members of the hunting party in a somewhat chaotic and stressful situation but worked hand-and-hand [sic] with the two EMS personnel out of Iron River.”

Mongin has since started physical rehab and therapy.

VanWagner has been a conservation officer since 2020 and patrols Iron County. Romzek was hired by the DNR in September and is a probationary conservation officer who is completing field training in various locations throughout the state.

Michigan conservation officers are fully licensed law enforcement officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect residents through general law enforcement and conducting lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

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An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Rescue: The scene of the rescue of an injured Wisconsin hunter is shown.