MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers' personal assistant died in a weekend tubing accident on the Sugar River in southern Wisconsin, the governor said Monday.
Ben Belzer, 25, had worked as Evers' personal assistant since February 2019. He was raised in La Crosse and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"It's unimaginable that he's gone," Evers said in a statement. Evers said he, his wife, Kathy, and everyone on his team was "stunned" by the death.
Evers said that Belzer was one of the five people he has limited himself to having close contact with since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March. Evers said he frequently talked with Belzer about the "Wisconsin values of kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion. Ben was truly the embodiment of these qualities."
The Green County Sheriff's Department said it and other nearby fire and police agencies responded to reports at 3:20 p.m. Saturday of a man tubing on the river who went under water and did not resurface. The body was located in the water at 6:05 p.m., about 400 yards (366 meters) from where he entered the water.
The sheriff's office identified Belzer as the victim Monday and said the death was under investigation. The Green County Coroner's Department did not immediately return a message about when the cause of death would be announced.
Evers said Belzer was "incomparable," "remarkably talented" and "thoughtful and mature beyond his years."
"He was exceptionally bright and inquisitive, and he had a thirst for knowledge and understanding of our state and our world," Evers said. "He brought out the best of us with his wit, never shying away from a laugh even in the most frustrating of times. Ben was always optimistic about how we could be part of making this world a better place."