Illinois Man Dies After Being Shot in the Face While Hunting with Group of Friends

Seth Egelhoff, 26, died as he was being rushed to a hospital by a medical helicopter, an official tells PEOPLE

<p>GoFundMe</p> Seth Egelhoff.


Seth Egelhoff.

An Illinois man died after he was shot in the face by a member of his own hunting party on Saturday, according to an official with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Seth Egelhoff, 26, was hunting with a group of friends in the Bays Branch Wildlife Area, about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines, when he was shot around 1 p.m. local time, Jeremy King, a conservation officer with the department, tells PEOPLE.

A 911 call came into the Guthrie County Sheriff's Office with a report saying that an individual had been shot in the marsh, King adds. By the time he arrived at the scene, King says the sheriff's office was there with other authorities.

Egelhoff was transported by EMS by a medical helicopter, but he died while on the way to the hospital, the official says.

Related: Dad Fatally Shoots Son, 28, After Mistaking Him for Deer While Hunting: 'Worst Kind of Tragedy'

King said the shooting appears to be an accident. The Iowa State Patrol and the Guthrie County Sheriff's Office are investigating, per the Associated Press and CNN.

"We have found zero evidence anywhere that would lead to any malicious or ill intent by anybody in the hunting party," adds King, who says an autopsy report will be completed. "The individual was very distraught. Extremely."

King said that he was told the group "had known each other since high school" and "were just kind of doing a guy's hunting trip."

"It all appears to be accidental at this time," the official says, noting that the shot was fired when the individual "was making an attempt to shoot a duck."

King tells PEOPLE he anticipates "zero legal action from the state."

Related: Why the Father Who Accidentally Fatally Shot His 14-Year-Old Son Refuses to Blame Guns

A GoFundMe created by Egelhoff's loved ones for funeral and travel expenses described him as "one of a kind" with a "smile that could light up any room."

"Anyone that knew him, knows he would do anything for just about anyone and ask for nothing in return," according to the fundraiser, which raised over $40,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. "In times like this, people always ask how they can help and we all feel helpless knowing we can’t take the pain away. However, we can help to make sure the family is focused on each other and not the financial side of things during their time of grieving."

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The weekend's deadly shooting is the state's second hunting fatality in 2023, CNN reported. The latest incident has shocked King and the "tight-knit" waterfall community. "I've received a lot of calls, a lot of inquiries about what had happened, how people can stay safe," he says.

Safety is "paramount" to hunting, King says. "The most important thing is that hunters remain [diligent about] knowing their gun safety, knowing what's beyond the target, and having a hunting plan and carrying that out to the exact details of those plans," he notes.

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