MACKINAC COUNTY, MI – A 21-year-old man from Ghana, West Africa, and a 19-year-old Lansing woman expressed their gratitude to two Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers after being rescued Saturday from rough water in Lake Huron, offshore of the Les Cheneaux Islands in Mackinac County.
The two were staying at the Lansing woman’s family cottage, located in Mackinac County, and decided to take a personal watercraft for a ride. The man was operating the PWC with the woman as a passenger when they were both ejected into the rough, 59-degree Fahrenheit water.
Prior to the incident, Conservation Officers Todd Sumbera and Cole VanOosten were conducting marine patrol and noticed the couple safely operating the PWC. About 20 minutes later, the two COs completed a routine check of another vessel when VanOosten noticed something floating in the water, about a half-mile from where they originally saw the PWC.
As the COs approached, they observed a woman flailing her arms, yelling, “Help him!” and pointing to a man about 30 yards from the drifting PWC. The man was wearing a life jacket that didn’t fit properly and was struggling to keep his head above the water.
While taking on water over the bow of the patrol vessel, Sumbera and VanOosten navigated to the man and pulled him aboard.
“I thought I was going to die. How did you find us?” the man repeated.
Sumbera told the man it wasn’t the officers who saved him – it was the life jacket. Despite the jacket not fitting well, it prevented the man from being completely submerged.
During this time, the woman was able to safely swim to the PWC but needed the required safety lanyard to start the machine; it was attached to the man’s life jacket. The officers returned the key to the woman, who operated the PWC back to her family’s dock, while the man, who had been in the water several minutes, was very cold and had inhaled a “decent” amount of water rode on the patrol boat with the officers.
Sumbera and VanOosten followed the woman back to the dock and made sure the man was okay before leaving. Both refused medical attention.
“I’m happy to hear that this young man and woman safely made it back to shore to continue their holiday weekend, in what could have been a tragic situation,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Sumbera and VanOosten were patrolling the right place at the right time. Throughout the state, conservation officers will continue to conduct marine patrols during peak boating times to ensure the safety of all boaters. This is an important reminder to always wear a properly fitted personal flotation device and to ride with an experienced operator who has completed a verified boater safety education course.”
This summer, the DNR has partnered on a life jacket campaign with McDonald’s, to promote the increased use of youth wearing properly fitting life jackets while on active vessels. Youth who are observed wearing their life jackets by a conservation officer have the opportunity to receive a free McDonald’s ice cream or apple slice coupon. Conservation officers will continue passing out the coupons until Sept. 6.
Conservation officers cared for an Oakland County man who had suffered life-threatening injuries in an ORV accident
A 23-year-old man from Berkley is expected to recover after sustaining life-threatening injuries Sunday July 4th, 2021 when he lost control of his off-road vehicle on state-managed land in Montmorency County.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers Sidney Collins and Dan Liestenfeltz responded to a 911 call at 2 p.m. regarding a personal injury ORV accident at an unknown location in Vienna Township.
Lacking an approximate location due to the caller not having cellphone service, the officers drove to an area that matched the caller’s description, near a large field located east of Roby Road, at a dead end. While Collins and Liestenfeltz drove the road in their patrol trucks, an ORV approached the officers on the roadway to signal for help.
“It’s really bad,” a young woman on the ORV said.
In their patrol trucks, Collins and Liestenfeltz followed the woman on her ORV to where the Berkley man lost control and crashed his four-wheeler, sustaining serious injuries to his right leg and foot and other injuries.
One of the witnesses, a 14-year-old girl, ran back to her house to retrieve water and a belt, which she applied to the man’s leg to control his bleeding.
Collins and Liestenfeltz applied a department-issued tourniquet to the victim’s leg, which stopped the bleeding. Once the tourniquet was secure, the officers relayed their GPS location to Montmorency County Dispatch for a helicopter – which was 45 minutes out.
In the meantime, the officers guided ground EMS to their location, where emergency responders made a joint decision to transport the man to Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord so he could receive immediate medical treatment prior to surgery. The man was airlifted to Munson Flint where he underwent surgery on his foot and collarbone.
Monday morning, the man’s mother told Collins and Liestenfeltz that her son was “in good spirits and feels lucky to be alive.” He is at Royal Oak Beaumont receiving medical treatment and is expected to recover.
“Thank you to the two witnesses involved in this event, particularly to the young female who applied a belt as a tourniquet, which saved valuable time before conservation officers arrived to take over medical care,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “I’m glad to hear that the man is in good spirits. This week, our officers will continue to patrol the increased ORV activity they’re observing throughout the state and encourage all riders to ‘Ride Right,’ using care and caution regardless of where they’re riding.”
Out of privacy for those involved, the DNR is not releasing names.
Vienna Township Fire Department, Tri-Township EMS and Montmorency County Sheriff’s Department assisted Collins and Liestenfeltz.
Speed and careless and reckless riding were the primary causes of reported ORV accidents during 2020. Learn more about ORV safety at Michigan.gov/RideRight.
DNR releases name of swimmer who drowned in Ogemaw County
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Brad Bellville was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at Grousehaven Lake in the Rifle River Recreation Area Sunday in response to a report of a missing swimmer.
Nathan Pearson, 32, of Lupton, was known locally for riding his bike to Grousehaven Lake, located in the Rifle River Recreation Area in Ogemaw County. Pearson was swimming alone Sunday evening, outside of the designated swim area, when other swimmers were alerted by a shout and then saw him disappear under the water. Beachgoers searched the water in the area, attempting to locate Pearson until Bellville and other law enforcement agencies arrived.
When Bellville arrived at 7:51 p.m., he was told that Pearson had been underwater for about 15 minutes.
Bellville launched his boat and conducted a search with DNR Parks and Recreation staff, the Roscommon County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team, Michigan State Police, the Ogemaw County Sheriff’s Department, and the Lupton and Rose City fire departments.
Pearson was located at 2 a.m. Monday in about 14 feet of water.
“It is with deep regret that this situation did not have a better outcome,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Our thoughts are with the victim’s family and friends during this difficult time. I applaud all of the beachgoers and responding agencies who immediately responded to help. This is a strong reminder to always swim with a buddy and to be mindful of designated swim areas.”
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