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Pond accident victim, 26, dies

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

Robert Houser Jr., 26, of Fort Wayne was working for a landscaping company Friday when the riding mower he was on slid into a pond and pinned him underwater, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division said.

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

The workers did not know how long Houser had been underwater before they found him. He was taken in critical condition to a hospital.

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

A corrected news release was issued about 2 p.m. stating Houser remained in critical condition.

Lt. William Browne, public relations lieutenant for conservation officers, said Heidenreich had received information from a reporter in the area who said Houser had died. “He was convinced he was putting out correct information,” Browne said of the conservation officer.

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 a death announcement, but that protocol was not followed in this case.

Browne said the conservation department will take steps to ensure there is no recurrence.

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

The Allen County Coroner’s Office had yet to issue a ruling – including the cause and manner – in Houser’s death as of Tuesday evening.