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Equipment Purchase Helps with Backwoods RescuesSubmitted: 03/19/2013
Story By Lex Gray


RHINELANDER - The extra snow means extra, late-season snowmobiling.

In Arbor Vitae, this year has been a little safer than years past.

The Arbor Vitae Fire Department bought a John Deere Gator. They've been using it since mid-December.

The Gator can easily climb snow banks and drive through deep snow.

It will help rescuers reach people faster, even if they're deep in the woods.

"We have miles and miles of snowmobile trails up here, accidents can happen anywhere from one mile off of a highway up to about 20 miles off into the woods," said first responder Ben Woynich. "Vehicles like this give us the accessibility, give us safety and comfort on the way out there, we have great communication abilities with it."

Rescue Chief Stan Lewis used the gator to save a man's life in February.

A snowmobiler rolled into a ravine, and his sled landed on top of him while he was driving about a mile and a half off Highway 70.

It took the department just 20 minutes to reach him after they got the call.

"I was definitely glad, all the time and effort putting into researching and finding out what machine we wanted, and what we wanted the bed to look like," Lewis said. "It made me happy to finally use it and see that it does work and that we're able to use it in practical situations."

The gator cost $30,000. The department used money they get from responding to crashes on state highways.

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MINOCQUA - A Green Bay man died in a snowmobile crash in Minocqua Tuesday night.

The Minocqua Police Department says the crash happened at 7:13 p.m. on Lower Kaubashine Road near the intersection of Camp Nine Road and Cedar Falls Drive.

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MADISON - The state appeals court says a judge properly moved a teen offender into the adult system after saying he thought the boy would be safer there than in the state's troubled youth prison.

The teen was accused of sexually assaulting a fifth-grader.

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CORNUCOPIA, WISCONSIN - The National Park Service says it's still too dangerous to explore the Apostle Islands ice caves off the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior.

When accessible, the majestic ice caves have attracted tens of thousands of visitors to the area.

The park service doesn't know if the ice will be safe enough this season.

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STEVENS POINT - A baby in Portage County ended up in the hospital for seizures twice in three days last fall.  Police think the mother's live-in boyfriend may have shaken that baby.

Matthew Huettl, 25, pleaded not guilty to felony charges for first-degree reckless injury and child abuse in Portage County Court on Tuesday.

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VILAS COUNTY - A 77-year-old man died in a crash near Boulder Junction late Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Vilas County Sheriff's Office and Wisconsin State Patrol, it happened around 3:30 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. Highway 51 and County Highway H.

Investigators think a van went through an intersection and hit a semi truck.

"There was injury," said Boulder Junction Fire Chief Matthew Reuss. "The two passengers in the van had to be extricated. One was taken to Howard Young Medical Center for further care. The driver of the semi was uninjured and the second passenger in the van was pronounced dead at the scene."

According to Wisconsin State Patrol, the driver of the van is a 68-year-old woman from Colby. Crews later took her to St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield for non-life threatening injuries. Her passenger, a 77-year-old male from Colby, died in the crash. They were both wearing seatbelts. 

The driver of the semi is 63 years old and from South Range. 

Traffic was rerouted through Boulder Junction for several hours and was reopened shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Several units responded to the scene.

"Because we had multiple patients, we dispatched multiple ambulance units," Reuss said. "We called in resources from Arbor Vitae for traffic control and we called Manitowish Waters for help in extrication and ambulance service as well as Medic 5 out of Howard Young."

State Patrol and the Vilas County Sheriff's Office will investigate the crash.

Police will not release the names until the families are notified. 

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RHINELANDER - The farther south you go, the less snow you'll see. That's bad news for people who live there, but great for getting people to come to the Northwoods.

The Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association puts in a lot of work, in part to attract more people to its trails. 

The group works with the Oneida County Forest to improve trails.

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RHINELANDER - When police arrested Alexander Durand for stealing a car, they found he had been stealing mail as well.

The Oneida County Sheriff's Office arrested Durand, 21, Saturday for driving a car stolen from a house near Rhinelander. During that investigation, officers found a lot of other people's mail on Durand's property.

The mail was from all over Oneida County as well as other counties.  The Sheriff's Office will contact the people whose mail has been found.

Durand is due in court January 23.

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