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Backhoe falls into creek in St. Peter; operator presumed dead

Rescue workers in an inflatable raft probe around the MnDOT backhoe that fell into Seven Mile Creek along Highway 169 between Mankato and St. Peter, Minn. on Tuesday. Authorities are searching for the operator of a backhoe that fell into the Minnesota River while clearing ice jams between St. Peter and Mankato.

ST. PETER, Minn. — Authorities say a backhoe operator is presumed dead after his machine was swept into the Minnesota River while clearing debris between St. Peter and Mankato.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation identifies the maintenance worker as 39-year-old Michael Struck, a nine-year employee with the department.

MnDOT says Struck was clearing debris near Seven Mile Creek on Highway 169 when his backhoe apparently was pulled into the floodwaters.

WCCO-TV reports officials say currents are so dangerous, the dive team can't go into the river safely. But searchers will use boats to look in backwaters.

The Free Press of Mankato says the accident was reported just before noon Tuesday near Seven Mile Creek Park.

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