SAWYER COUNTY — Gage James Backstrom, age 20, of Arlington, Virginia who was vacationing in the area, was found deceased on July 5th, after authorities responded to a 911 call on the shortly after midnight on the 4th of July reporting him missing on the Chippewa Flowage. An extensive multi-agency search was undertaken and the following morning Mr. Backstrom was located floating in the water near Big Timber Island. Initial indications are that he was a drowning victim, according to a press release from the Sawyer County Sheriff's Office.

(Press Release) — On 07/04/2019 at 12:08 a.m., the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center received a 911 call reporting a missing adult male on the Chippewa Flowage.  The caller reported that the male was camping on an island located in the eastern part of the Chippewa Flowage.  Sawyer County Deputies responded to the island.  After arriving on the island, responding Deputies located a boat rented by the missing male on the shore of the island, a campsite with a tent and personal belongings including the missing male’s cell phone.  The missing male was not at the campsite.    

Sawyer County Search & Rescue personnel and drones, fire department personnel with an airboat searched the island, other nearby islands and the water in the area.  The Sawyer County Dive Team, searched the water near the island, assisted by the Wisconsin DNR utilizing underwater equipment.  LCO Tribal Game Wardens, Sawyer County Search & Rescue personnel and canines assisted in the search.  The combined search efforts continued until approximately 05:30 p.m. but the missing male was not located.   Search efforts were then suspended.   

Search efforts resumed on 07/05/19 at 09:00 a.m.  Involved were Sheriff’s Deputies, WI DNR Wardens, LCO Tribal Wardens, St. Louis (MN) County Sheriff’s Deputies, Sawyer County Dive Team and Sawyer County Search & Rescue personnel.  At 10:03 a.m., the missing male was located deceased, floating in the water near Big Timber Island.  The missing male was not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) when he was located.  The missing male, identified as Gage James Backstrom, age 20, of Arlington, Virginia who was vacationing in the area.  Initial indications are that Mr. Backstrom was a drowning victim.  An autopsy was performed; results of the autopsy are pending.

There is no further information regarding this incident available at this time.

The Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office reminds everyone to wear a PFD anytime you are boating or participating in other on the water activities. 

Sheriff Douglas Mrotek


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