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Police and fire

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Worker trapped under mower in pond dies

A man trapped under a mower in a pond last week died Tuesday, according to Indiana conservation officers.

Robert Houser Jr., 26, of Fort Wayne was at work Friday for a landscaping company when the riding mower he was on slid into a pond and pinned Houser under the water, the Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division said.

Houser’s co-workers with him at the job site at West Chester Lakes Subdivision freed him from under the mower and started CPR on shore until emergency responders arrived.

They did not know how long he was under the water before they found him. He was taken in critical condition to a local hospital.

Houser’s time of death Tuesday was listed as 3:21 p.m., but about 11:15 a.m. a news release from Sgt. Patrick HeidenreichÖ, the investigating officer with the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division, announced Houser’s death.

Around 2 p.m., a corrected news release was issued saying Houser was still in critical condition.

Lt. William Browne, public relations lieutenant for Indiana conservation officers, said Tuesday that Heidenreich received information from a reporter in the area who said Houser had died.

“He was convinced he was putting out correct information,” Browne said.

He said Heidenreich “felt horrible” when he learned of his mistake and quickly issued the correction.

Browne said conservation officers rely on notification from hospital doctors or coroner’s office representatives when it comes to the announcement of someone’s death, but that protocol was not followed in this instance.

The Allen County coroner’s office had not issued a ruling – including the cause and manner – in Houser’s death as of Tuesday.

Browne said the department will make sure such a mistake does not occur again.

“We’re taking ownership of our mistake … we accept it and we apologize,” he said.