Survival Stories: Numerous Rescues During Michigan’s Dangerous Deep Freeze
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has released details of dozens of incidents they were dispatched to during the winter emergency in areas of Michigan during the last week of January. A strong winter storm was followed by the coldest temperatures and wind chills in decades across much of the state.
Here are some of the stories of survival, rescues, and unfortunately some fatalities.
Three Snowmobilers Rescued After Falling Through Ice In Alger County
As temperatures fell to -18 degrees, rescuers in Alger County were sent to Clyde Lake on January 26th to locate three snowmobilers whose sleds had fallen through the ice and into the water. Conservation officer Mark Zitnik and U.S. Forest Service officer Dave Tembruell were the last dispatched to the scene, but the first to find the snowmobilers.
“We found them huddling around a fire, soaking wet,” Zitnik said.
With a stream feeding into the lake, the ice the riders’ sleds dropped through measured only about an inch thick. The water was 3 to 4 feet deep. One of the snowmobilers climbed a ridge to get a cellphone signal to notify county dispatchers. EMS personnel treated the men and officers got them safely back to their vehicle. The following day, the three sleds were pulled from the lake.
Northern Michigan University Student Dies After Getting Lost In Marquette County
Seven DNR conservation officers assisted the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office in the search for a missing 25-year-old Northern Michigan University student who had traveled to the Yellow Dog River to hike and take photographs on January 24th. Numerous agencies were involved in the search effort. Conditions were extreme as daytime temperatures hovered around -4 degrees and -22 degrees at night.
Tragically, the student was found deceased by volunteer searchers three days later. It appeared he had gotten disorientated during a snowstorm and succumbed to the elements.
Driver in Baraga County Runs Out Of Gas After Concert
While patrolling Baraga County at about 3:00 am along a remote stretch of US-41, Conservation Officer Josh Boudreaux came across a vehicle parked on the side of the highway. Boudreaux approached the vehicle, which wasn’t running, and noticed it was unoccupied but still in drive with its headlights on. Seeing this as odd, Boudreaux attempted to locate contact info for the registered owner of the vehicle, but the car was a Wisconsin rental.
While attempting to contact rental companies, a vehicle pulled up and dropped off the driver of the car, who said she had run out of gas while driving home from a concert. She was worried she was going to have to stay the night in her car. Boudreaux helped refuel her vehicle and was about to leave when she flagged him down, stating her car wouldn’t start. Boudreaux pulled his truck around and jump-started the battery. Boudreaux followed the thankful driver to the next gas station to ensure she didn’t have any further issues along the way.
Snowmobiler In Chippewa County Gets Separated From Group
Conservation officers Justin Vinson and Colton Gelinas responded to a report of a lost 19-year old snowmobiler in northern Chippewa County. Three snowmobilers had left the Paradise area to ride the trails. Their day quickly turned to panic when one of the three snowmobilers went missing. With limited cell phone coverage and frigid temperatures, it became a desperate search for their missing friend.
After searching for nearly three hours, the riders decided to call 911 for assistance. The officers quickly loaded their snowmobiles and responded to the last known location of the group. They were able to make telephone contact with the lost snowmobiler. With their thorough knowledge of the area, officers were able to talk the lost subject back to a trail intersection where he was advised to flag down the next passing snowmobiler. A good Samaritan snowmobiler led the lost snowmobiler back to his friends. The party was soon reunited, just before dark.
Teenage Girl Walking Near Muskegon Nearly Freezes To Death
Ivan Perez conducted snowmobile safety patrols in Ottawa and Muskegon Counties. While in route to Muskegon, he noticed a female walking against traffic on the roadway. The sidewalks had not been shoveled forcing her to walk on the roadway.
Perez stopped to talk to the girl. He learned she was 17 years old and was attempting to walk home. Her eyebrows and eyelashes had frosted, and she was shivering. She had a light winter coat on and had no gloves. Perez determined the girl still had three miles to walk to get home. Instead, Perez gave her a ride.
Menominee County Driver Injured After Car Veers Off Road 100 Yards And Strikes Tree
While on patrol in Menominee County, Conservation Officer Jeremy Sergey and Probationary Conservation Officer Noah Thompson responded to a single vehicle crash on US-41 near Willow Road. When the officers arrived, they saw the vehicle had left the highway, went through a guard rail and traveled approximately 100 yards before crashing into a tree.
The driver of the vehicle had several deep lacerations to each of his hands. The officers rendered first aid until EMS arrived.
These incidents, which were only a few out of hundreds during the winter emergency, illustrate the conditions officers and emergency responders were working under over eight days of intense winter weather, which ranged from wind chills approaching -40 degrees to blizzard conditions.
“Our conservation officers respond to dangerous, potentially life-threatening incidents on a regular basis, providing aid and comfort to those in need of help. However, the courage and dedication exhibited by our officers is even more commendable during times of challenging weather conditions or natural disasters.” - DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.
As always, we want to sincerely thank police, fire crews, EMS, DNR officers and all the good Samaritans who went out of their way and braved danger to help others during Michigan's extreme weather in late January.
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