Wednesday, Aug. 8, marks the 55th anniversary of the death of Michigan conservation officer Edward C. Starback, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

In 1957, Starback was en route by private airplane to Beaver Island from Boyne City to pick up a Department of Conservation patrol boat he’d left there a few days earlier due to bad weather. About 20 minutes after take-off, another pilot reported the plane had spiraled into Lake Michigan and sunk immediately.

Also killed in the accident was the pilot, Don Watkins, 63, of Boyne City and Starback’s two adult sons – Air Force pilot Maj. Richard Starback, 35, and Carlton Starback, 28. Carlton Starback was an air traffic controller at Willow Run Airport. Officer Starback was laid to rest in Breedsville.

“Officer Edward Starback weighed the danger of the waters of Lake Michigan and decided to fly off the island,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “But this decision could not overcome what fate had in store. Officers using their best decisions and judgment are not always shielded from the dangers of the profession. We will always remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.”

This year marks the 125th anniversary of conservation law enforcement in Michigan. Starback is one of 12 fallen conservation officers whom the DNR commemorated on May 15, when the department dedicated a memorial to conservation officers who have died while in the line of duty.

For more information or to contribute to the construction of the memorial, visit

Logo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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