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Drone finds missing Minn. accident victim, collapsed on train tracks

Officials in Renville County quickly halted trains after the drone spotted the crash victim on the Twin Cities & Western Railroad tracks


Renville County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook


SACRED HEART, Minn. — The use of an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, with infrared imaging capabilities helped law enforcement locate a man who had left the scene of an accident, and it very likely saved his life when authorities were able to stop a train on its way to where the man had collapsed on railroad tracks.

The aircraft spotted him as he collapsed west of Sacred Heart and, because of it, the Renville County Sheriff’s Office was able to contact the Twin Cities & Western Railroad which halted a train en route to the man’s location, and only two miles away.

Juan A. Chaparro-Larsen, 37, of Granite Falls, was located by the aerial craft walking on railroad tracks about one mile west of where his vehicle had rolled over near U.S. Highway 212 and 150th Street in Renville County, or about one mile west of Sacred Heart in Hawk Creek Township, at around 5:56 a.m. Friday.

The 2005 Buick Rendezvous was fully engulfed in flames as emergency responders reached the site of the rollover. After extinguishing the fire, the crews discovered that there were no occupants inside the vehicle and a search of the area ensued, according to a news release from the Renville County Sheriff’s Office.

The Renville County Sheriff’s Office brought in the unmanned aerial vehicle and it was shortly after its launch that it located Chaparro-Larsen on the railroad tracks about one mile west of the accident scene.

The camera on the aircraft showed that he was in obvious distress. The camera showed him collapse on the Twin Cities & Western Railroad tracks as rescuers made their way to reach him, according to information from the Renville County Sheriff’s Office.

The TC&W Railroad was contacted and asked to stop any trains in the area until the situation was resolved.

Law enforcement officers and emergency medical services providers ultimately reached Chaparro-Larsen’s location, where he was treated by Granite Falls Ambulance staff. Chaparro-Larsen was later flown from the scene to the CentraCare — St. Cloud Hospital via LifeLink III helicopter

It was later determined that at the time that TC&W Railroad was contacted and asked to halt train traffic in the area, the railroad had a train east of Sacred Heart traveling westbound toward the incident. They were able to stop the train in Sacred Heart, about two miles away from the incident.

Agencies responding to and assisting at the scene included the Renville County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota State Patrol, Sacred Heart Fire Department, Sacred Heart Medical Response Unit, Granite Falls Ambulance and Life Link III air ambulance.

The Minnesota State Patrol is investigating the crash.

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