Natural Resource Officer Jason Lagore, who died in the line of duty earlier this year while trying to rescure children at Rocky Fork State Park, was posthumously honored by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz. The Director’s Award of Valor was presented to Lagore’s wife in a small ceremony last week.
“Back in February we lost not only a dedicated officer, but a loving husband and devoted father,” Mertz said. “Because of his courage and bravery in the face of danger, there is no one more deserving of this honor. I am proud of the work he did and the legacy he leaves behind.”
Lagore responded to a call on Feb. 23, 2021, that two children had fallen through the ice at Rocky Fork Lake in Highland County. A 13-year-old boy was rescued; a 15-year-old girl died.
Lt. Branden Jackman, public information officer for Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, said at the time of the accident that around 6:26 p.m. on Feb. 23, Paint Creek’s Rainsboro station was dispatched to the area of South Lakeshore Drive for subjects that had fallen through the ice and were in immediate peril.
He said the accident took place at a private dock located on the north side of Rocky Fork Lake at the bottom of a steep incline that had compromised access, but a first responder was on the scene within 10 minutes of the call.
One male juvenile had attempted to rescue one female juvenile, Jackman reported, with the male juvenile able to self-rescue from the ice and water. The male juvenile was later ground transported to Highland District Hospital for treatment of hypothermia, and survived.
During the initial phase of the rescue, LaGore, 38, of Warren County, suffered a medical emergency and was transported via ground ambulance to Highland District Hospital, where he later died.
“It is with heavy hearts that we report that he also was unable to be resuscitated,” Jackman said at the time of the accident. “… Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of the drowning victim and to our brothers and sisters in blue for the loss of their officer in the line of duty.”
Divers from Task Force 1 from the Hamilton County and Franklin County Sheriff’s office were requested to the scene as the female juvenile was unable to be located.
Jackman said that at approximately 10:47 p.m., rescue divers located a point of interest on their sonar equipment and entered the water shortly afterward, recovering the missing girl at 11 p.m.
She was transported to Highland District Hospital via ground ambulance with every life-saving treatment being administered, but Jackman said that she had been under the ice too long and was unable to be resuscitated.
Lagore served 15 years with the ODNR. He was an innovative member of the team, and responsible for the first ODNR K-9 academy and leading the Division of Parks and Watercraft K-9 training program. He was well respected across the state for his expertise working with K-9s.
“For us, this isn’t a job. It’s a mission, a calling. It’s a way to get some grieving family an answer to a mystery and tragedy more quickly,” Lagore once said.
When he wasn’t serving the ODNR, Lagore enjoyed deer and turkey hunting, loved history, and enjoyed vacations with his family. He is survived by his wife, Michelle; his two young sons; and his K9 partner, Sarge, who was officially retired from service last week.
Earlier this year the ODNR honored three other officers with the Director’s Award of Valor. Officers Jason Keller, Eric Lamb and Matt Roberts were recognized for their lifesaving actions after Ohio Wildlife Investigator Kevin Behr was shot while on assignment in Clinton County in December 2020.