Quick response prevents suicide attempt

RIVER RESCUE: A quick response from first responders saved a man who attempted to drown himself on Saturday in the Muskegon River at Paris Park. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Brotherton)

Emergency responders rescue drowning man from Muskegon River at Paris Park

PARIS — Mecosta County Sheriff’s Deputy Karen Hard and Mecosta County Hovercraft Team leader Ron Palmer rescued a drowning man from the Muskegon River on Saturday.

Thanks to their efforts and the quick response from Meceola Central Dispatch and other first-response agencies, the man is alive today, said Todd Purcell, Mecosta County Sheriff.

“What they did goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Purcell said. “They both represented the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office and the community in a selfless and distinguishable manner.”

The man attempted to drown himself Saturday in the Muskegon River at Paris Park. After being retrieved from the water, he was treated at Mecosta County Medical Center — sustaining no physical injuries — before being released to a mental health facility in Grand Rapids.

The victim called Meceola Central Dispatch at about 10 a.m. on Saturday, telling dispatchers he was going to drown himself and that his body would be found in the Muskegon River.

Dispatcher Debbie Ruiz kept the man on the line, while dispatchers Tracey Clark and Darbie Beaumont began paging out the call to first responders. They also contacted the cell phone company in an attempt to obtain the man’s location.

Deputy Hard was leaving central dispatch, which is located about a mile-and-a-half south of Paris Park on Northland Drive, when the 9-1-1 call came through.

She was the first on the scene, arriving three minutes after the 9-1-1 call was made. She located an unoccupied car at Paris Park and ran the license plate registration, which came back registered to the caller. She then ran down to the river to locate the man.

“I didn’t see him in the river until (Palmer) got there,” Hard said. “I kept on yelling for him with no answer. One of the maintenance guys who was working at the park helped me look for him along the edges of the water.”

After an initial search, the man was located in the middle of the river, unresponsive with only his head above water. Palmer arrived shortly after to help retrieve the man from the river.

Without any diving or safety equipment, including life jackets and throw ropes, Palmer made the decision to enter the river to save the man.

“I didn’t have any of my regular gear; I didn’t have a wetsuit with me,” said Palmer, who is a captain on the Mecosta-Austin Fire Department and owner of Palmer Outdoor Power equipment in Reed city. “Hypothermia only takes minutes to set in and that was a major concern for me this time of year.”

Palmer reached the unconscious man, who was stuck on some rocks in waist-deep water. Hard helped him pull the man on to shore.

“I got about half-way back to shore with the victim and Deputy Hard helped me bring him the rest of the way out of the water,” Palmer said. “I truly believe if we weren’t there, he wouldn’t have been pulled from the water.”

The man was unconscious but breathing, according to the police report released by the sheriff’s office. It was at that time that Jim Tubbs of the hovercraft team, Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Mohr and Big Rapids Department of Public Safety rescue team arrived on scene.

The man was transferred to Mecosta County Medical Center by Osceola County MIC1 about 25 minutes after the 9-1-1 call was made. He was released from the hospital by 6 p.m. and transferred to a mental health facility.

Laurie Smalla, Central Dispatch director, lauded her staff and the first responders for their efforts and keeping an expedient response time.

“We are very blessed to work in an area with people who are so dedicated to public safety,” Smalla said. “Our dispatchers are all local people from both counties. Most of them have grown up in the area and they dedicate themselves every day to do this kind of work. … The response time was phenomenal (in this situation).”


Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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