OTTAWA COUNTY, MI – A Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer and a deputy from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department teamed up Monday, February 9th, to rescue a 13-year-old boy who fell through the ice on Lake Macatawa while chasing his dog.
At approximately 4 p.m. February 9th, 2015, the boy, his 16-year-old brother and the family’s two dogs were walking on the frozen surface of Macatawa Lake in Holland Township.
Near the Dutton Park portion of the lake, there are open waters due to the warm water discharges from a power plant. The dogs were chasing each other when one ran toward the open water. The 16-year-old secured one of the dogs, while his younger brother continued chasing the other dog as it ran toward the open water. Both the boy and the dog went through the thin ice.
Onlookers at Dutton Park called the Ottawa County Dispatch Center to report the incident while the older brother ran home for help. The dog escaped from the water without assistance.
First responders to the scene included Ottawa County Sheriff’s Deputy Brent Brown and DNR Conservation Officer Gerard “BJ” Goulette. Brown and Goulette approached the victim who was in the water, clinging to the edge of the ice. Brown was successful in throwing a rescue line to the boy. While officers were able to pull the victim onto the ice, he was unable to move further or grasp the rescue line to assist officers. Goulette quickly decided to crawl forward on the ice until he was able to grasp the boy’s arms and drag him back to thicker ice.
Members of the Holland Township Fire Department had arrived on the scene at this time and began to render aid to the boy, who was in the water for approximately 10 minutes. The boy was transported and treated for hypothermia. The family dog was also located by fire personnel and appeared uninjured.
“Quick thinking by the first responders made all the difference in this incident, and it is a great example of three different agencies all working together to bring about a good outcome,” said Capt. David Malloch, DNR’s Law Enforcement Division field operations coordinator for Region 2. “This incident also serves as a good reminder to the public that no ice is safe and extreme caution is necessary when out on any frozen lake or river.”
Conservation officers would like to remind anglers, snowmobilers and other outdoor enthusiasts venturing out on frozen lakes and rivers to be extra cautious in situations where currents or warm water discharges may affect ice thickness and safety. At best, ice forming in those areas should be considered uncertain and ever-changing during the winter. Open-water areas should always be avoided.