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DL tow truck operator seriously hurt while helping set up disaster drill

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A Detroit Lakes tow truck operator was seriously injured Tuesday afternoon while helping emergency workers set up for a disaster drill at Soo Pass Ranch.

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Mike Smith, 44, owner and operator of Lakes Towing suffered crushing injuries to his lower extremities in the accident.

He was taken to St. Mary's Innovis Health in Detroit Lakes, taken by Life Flight to a Fargo hospital, then airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with "extremely serious" injuries, according to Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon.

The accident occurred as the tow truck operator was helping a Detroit Lakes firefighter, Ryan Swanson, set up a disaster drill scenario involving an overturned camper made from a converted school bus.

The bus started rolling down a small hill at Northwoods Campground at the Soo Pass Ranch, where the disaster drill was held Wednesday.

The bus rolled into the wrecker and both started going down the incline. Smith tried to jump into the cab of the wrecker to put on the brakes, but he only managed to get halfway in, and he was injured when the wrecker sideswiped a tree and slammed the door shut on him.

Swanson, the only other person on the scene, had been spotting for the tow truck driver. The firefighter was able to get him free from the wreckage and call for help.

"It was just a tragic accident," Gordon said. "He was donating his time and efforts to us for the disaster drill."

A condition report was not available Wednesday from the Hennepin County Medical Center.

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