A 39-year-old Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, one of many in her family who have served the agency, died while on duty Monday morning following a two-vehicle crash near Grand Rapids involving a pickup truck and a semitrailer truck, authorities said.
The DNR identified the officer as Sarah Grell of Cohasset. The agency said she became a DNR officer in 2005. She leaves behind a husband and three children.
The crash occurred about 8:30 a.m. at County Roads 57 and 336 in Lawrence Township, about 20 miles north of Grand Rapids, according to the State Patrol.
Grell was driving a pickup on County Road 336, where she was hit broadside by the semi as it headed east on County Road 57, roughly 20 miles north of Grand Rapids, the patrol said. The semi driver, 42-year-old Milo J. Polovina, of Grand Rapids, suffered minor injuries.
Grell's father, grandfather and an uncle also worked as conservation officers. Her husband, Gene Grell, works for the DNR's Forestry Division, and her mother worked for DNR Fisheries until her retirement.
"The sense of loss we feel right now is indescribable," DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement issued Monday night. "We are heartbroken for her family. Our deepest sympathies and concerns are with them. Officer Grell leaves behind an incredible legacy of service to Minnesota's people and natural resources."
Col. Rodmen Smith, the DNR's Enforcement Division director, said, "Officer Grell was the epitome of a public servant and served the Enforcement Division, the DNR, and the people of Minnesota with distinction. Her loss is devastating."
Since conservation officers began serving in the state in 1887, Grell is the 23rd Minnesota conservation officer to die in the line of duty.
Gov. Tim Walz in a statement also issued Monday night said, "My ask of Minnesotans is that the next time you meet a conservation officer as you enjoy Minnesota's public lands and waters, remember Officer Grell and thank that officer for their work."
Walz will direct all U.S. and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings in the state on the day of Grell's interment, which has yet to be determined.
Paul Walsh • 612-968-2483