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Firefighter killed in motorcycle accident

Benjamin Wratz is pictured in his 2008 graduation photo from Farmington High School.1 / 2
Benjamin Wratz helps a visitor try out the fire hose at last week's fire department open house.2 / 2

Benjamin J. Wratz, a 2008 graduate of Farmington High School and a member of the Farmington Fire Department, died Sunday afternoon when he apparently lost control of his motorcycle in.

According to the Vernon County Sheriff's Department, at approximately 3:13 p.m., Wratz, 20, was traveling north on Co. Rd. N in Wisconsin, when he lost control of his motorcycle. He struck a bridge rail. The motorcycle left the roadway, became airborne and landed in the south fork of the Bad Axe River.

Wratz was wearing a helmet and protective clothing at the time of the accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the Vernon County Coroner's Office.

Farmington police officers notified the family of the accident, then informed fire chief Tim Pietsch. Wratz had joined the volunteer fire department nine months ago.

As a new recruit, Wratz was enthusiastic about becoming a firefighter and volunteered for extra assignments, Pietsch said. During the Oct. 7 fire department open house, Wratz was selected to be the victim in an rescue demonstration. As part of the demonstration he was airlifted in a helicopter.

"He was so excited, he was jumping around like a 12-year-old," said Farmington fire captain Ron Lindstrom.

It was Wratz's enthusiasm that caught the attention of his new colleagues at the fire department.

"His lifelong goal was to be a firefighter," Pietsch said. "His future was so bright."

Wratz apparently wanted to be a firefighter so badly, he took firefighting classes even before he made the local squad. At the time of his death, he was pursuing a fire science degree at Hennepin Technical College.

Since he was still in his rookie year with the fire department, Wratz's involvement at emergency scenes usually just involved observing and assisting the firefighters. Still, he took that role very seriously. He had a high attendance rate. He was always eager to get whatever training he could.

"Everything about Ben was so positive. He just loved being a part of the fire department. He was very inquisitive," Pietsch said. "Every time he was around the fire hall, he was always smiling, and his smile was infectious."

Visitation for Benjamin Wratz will be held from 4-8 p.m., Oct. 14, at Lord of Life Church, 16200 Dodd Blvd., Lakeville, and one hour prior to the service. His funeral service will be held at 1 p.m., Oct. 15, at Lord of Life Church.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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