Weather Forecast


Tow truck operator in critical condition

A Detroit Lakes tow truck operator is in critical condition after being injured Tuesday afternoon while helping emergency workers set up for a disaster drill at Soo Pass Ranch.

Mike Smith, 44, owner and operator of Lakes Country 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, where he was listed in critical condition Thursday morning.

The accident occurred about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday as the tow truck operator was helping Detroit Lakes firefighter Ryan Swanson set up a disaster drill scenario involving an overturned camper made from a converted school bus.

Smith towed the disabled school bus to the drill site, where the accident happened about 4:30 p.m., said Capt. Kelly Shannon of the Becker County Sheriff's Department.

Shannon said Smith set the bus down near a small hill and placed blocks on the tires.

The bus broke free from the blocks and started rolling down the 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," Sheriff Tim Gordon said. "He was donating his time and efforts to us for the disaster drill."

The disaster drill took place as scheduled. It involved area rescue squads, law enforcement agencies and hospitals.

(Forum reporter Benny Polacca contributed to this story)