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CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY LOBBYIST DIES ON HUNTING TRIP

POSTED: 5:23 AM PST January 6, 2004

BREWSTER, Wash. -- A construction industry lobbyist died after falling into the water in an apparent accident while duck hunting, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank T. Rogers said.

The body of William E. "Willy" O'Neil, 48, of Everett, manager of environmental affairs for the Associated General Contractors in Olympia, and his shotgun were found Monday morning in three feet of water in a marsh, Rogers said.

The body was located after search personnel found O'Neil's golden retriever, Widgen, near the south end of Washburn Island where the Okanogan River empties into the Columbia River, the sheriff said.

O'Neil, a former state rules coordinator who lobbied for the construction group in the Legislature and state agencies, apparently was overcome by hypothermia, Rogers said.

The search began Sunday night after O'Neil was reported missing by a hunting partner who had fallen ill with the flu and stayed in a motel.

The dog apparently never left O'Neil's body, Rogers said.

O'Neil had left his jacket liner and an extra hat in a duck blind despite subzero temperatures, a common practice among hunters, the sheriff said.

"If you're going to walk around, you don't want to be maxed-out bundled up and sweat too much," he said.

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