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Man who drowned at Flaming Gorge identified as former Salt Lake area police officer

FILE - Flaming Gorge is pictured. Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera announced that a man who drowned Sunday was former Unified Police Department and South Salt Lake Police Department officer Mikal Wersland.
FILE - Flaming Gorge is pictured. Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera announced that a man who drowned Sunday was former Unified Police Department and South Salt Lake Police Department officer Mikal Wersland.
KSL TV

MANILA, Daggett County — A man who drowned Sunday at Flaming Gorge Reservoir has been identified as a former officer from the Salt Lake area.

Retired officer Mikal "Mik" Wersland was swimming at Flaming Gorge Reservoir when he drowned, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said in a statement issued Monday offering condolences and prayers to Wersland's family and friends.

"It's just heartbreaking for everyone, especially for his family. … He was a brother, and he served on the SWAT team. A lot of people got to know Mik. He was one that really, really cared about people," Rivera told the Deseret News.

She said he retired just over a year ago and "had a distinguished career with South Salt Lake and Unified."

Before Wersland retired from the police force, he came across a man who had lost his wheelchair, Rivera recalled. Wersland "took it upon himself" to raise money to replace the man's wheelchair.

"That's the kind of guy he was. You know, it's a loss for everyone, especially Unified Police Department and South Salt Lake," Rivera said. "He was one that if you were out on a call and it was going bad, that's who you wanted as your backup."

During his career Wersland worked with the Unified and South Salt Lake police departments, said Unified Police Sgt. Melody Gray, and he was a member of Unified's SWAT team for many years.

An off-duty Unified police officer was at Flaming Gorge when Wersland died and helped in the effort to save him, Gray said. Wersland was with family at the time of the incident.

Rivera said Wersland had jumped out of a boat to swim to shore and "just didn't make it."

Contributing: Spencer Burt