Law enforcement officers throughout the area are mourning the loss of Thomas Wyatt, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension special agent who died in a traffic accident Wednesday.
Wyatt, 33, was based in Brainerd. The crash occurred Wednesday morning near McGregor.
"He was an extremely good agent. Nobody galvanized the narcotics enforcement in central Minnesota like Tom Wyatt did. People in Minnesota should be proud," said Dave Bjerga, BCA special agent in charge of northern Minnesota, who was Wyatt's supervisor. "But as good as an agent as he was, he was a better husband and father and our thoughts and prayers are with the family today.
"I want to let people know how important Tom was to us and I don't know if we'll be able to replace him. If we do, it will be difficult."
Wyatt, who was on duty and headed to the Brainerd BCA field office, was driving his pickup westbound on Highway 210, about three miles west of McGregor, when he crossed the centerline of the two-lane highway and collided head-on with an eastbound logging truck. The accident happened about 11:10 a.m., the State Patrol reported.
Wyatt was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Fletcher Trucking logging truck, Adam Morrow, 23, Grand Rapids, was treated at Riverwood HealthCare Center in Aitkin and released.
Wyatt is survived by his wife, two young children, his parents and a sister, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said.
Bjerga said Wyatt enjoyed hunting, fishing and loved playing golf. He also coached youth hockey in Brainerd. Bjerga said Wyatt's passion in life was to spend time with his family taking part in those activities.
Crews worked to pull a logging truck from the ditch on Highway 210 near McGregor Wednesday. The logging truck was involved in a collision with Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Special Agent Thomas Wyatt. Wyatt, who was pronounced dead at the scene, crossed the centerline and collided head-on with the semi truck.
Wyatt began his law enforcement career in 1994 as a special agent with the Iowa Department of Public Safety. He was hired as a special agent with the BCA in 1998 and assigned to the agency's Brainerd office, where he was responsible for narcotics enforcement.
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said Wyatt worked closely with all the law enforcement officers in the region and had many close relationships with the officers in those departments.
"Tom was a very effective investigator. He was also a family man, and a man of impeccable integrity and he will be missed," said Bolduc. "It's a huge loss for the law enforcement family in this area."
As a narcotics officer, Wyatt worked closely with the Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division and its predecessor, NET VI Drug Task Force. Former Brainerd Police Chief and NET VI Drug Task Force director Frank Ball, who is currently the alcohol and gambling enforcement director for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said Wyatt was one of the most aggressive narcotics officers he had worked with and a credit to the BCA.
"He was very honorable, had a high level of integrity and he was a great father," said Ball. "His loss is just very tragic. We grieve for him and his family. He will be deeply missed."
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said he had the utmost respect for Wyatt as an officer and an individual, and that his death was a tragedy for Wyatt's family and the law enforcement community.
"I think we've lost an awesome officer," said Ryan.
Bjerga said in his 25 years of law enforcement in central and northern Minnesota it was only after Wyatt came to the BCA that the drug enforcement efforts came together. Wyatt was especially key in battling the methamphetamine explosion, and Bjerga said Wyatt, though not in a highly visible position, was a credit to Minnesota.
"He was the perfect person for the times," said Bjerga. "That was the nature of his jobs, he toiled in trenches, but there was no one better for Brainerd."
The State Patrol is investigating the accident. State Patrol Capt. Mark Jonassen said investigators might never know why Wyatt crossed the centerline. The highway was dry at the time. Wyatt was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Morrow was wearing a seat belt.
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