Boater Rescued
Written by Ludington Daily News - HappyGoLucky   
Monday, 19 June 2006 10:37

As the owner of Capt. Chuck’s Great Outdoors, Dick Coleman is no stranger to big fish, but he caught something he never expected Saturday night off Big Sable Point.

Coleman, Dave Parrish and Kevin Miller rescued a Harrison man from the 52-degree waters of Lake Michigan shortly before sunset.

“It’s just one of those deals where we were fishing north of the point,” Coleman said. “We were about a half mile north of the point in 100 feet of water trolling south.”
“Dave Parrish turned to me and said ‘Did you hear that?’” Coleman said.

At first, the group thought they were hearing kids on the beach, but all agreed that would be a long way for beach sounds to carry.

“I turned my head, and looked and maybe 75 yards from us, there’s a guy’s head bobbing in the water,” Coleman said.

Coleman and crew pulled up the downriggers and reeled in the lines on that side of the boat and tried to pull the man in by offering him the handle of their landing net, but he couldn’t manage to get aboard.

The man, Daniel Wilson of Harrison, according to Coast Guard Station Ludington, had trouble with the swim platform on Miller’s 20-foot boat, the Whomper Stopper.

“His legs were so cold he couldn’t move them,” Coleman said.

The man asked to be returned to his boat, a 28-foot Bayliner called Big Daddy. But Coleman couldn’t see a boat anywhere.

“I looked way to the southwest and I saw it there,” Coleman said.

The man had been trolling on autopilot and fishing alone when he fell overboard.

“He went to the back of the boat to (relieve himself), and he opened his hatch door,” Coleman said. “He went back a second time, leaned against it, and fell in the water.”

Coleman said Coast Guard Station Ludington responded with both boats, including its 30-footer, which had been in Pentwater. The crew from that boat wrangled the Big Daddy, while the crew from the other boat brought a survival suit for the man to wear. Marine Patrol Officer Joe Marion of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office responded to guide the Whomper Stopper back to Ludington. With a 3-foot chop, Coleman said it was nice to have the Sheriff’s boat breaking water for them.

“We had a tight squeeze because they had a big sailboat deal, he was right in the mouth of the harbor,” Coleman said. He said Marion guided their boat past the sailboat and back to shore, where an ambulance was waiting.

Coleman said the man walked to the ambulance himself, but his body temperature was 93 degrees when he got into the emergency vehicle.

A Mason County Sheriff’s report stated the man was transported to Memorial Medical Center, where he was treatment for hypothermia and some abrasions to his left hand and right leg, and released.

Coast Guard Station Ludington Chief Trey Bennett said Boatswains’ Mate Larry Hall drove the Big Daddy to shore. The man was ticketed for not having his lifejackets readily accessible and the Coast Guard is investigating whether alcohol was a factor in the incident, Bennett said.

The sheriff’s report stated the case has been turned over to the prosecutor’s office for consideration of possible charges.

Coleman estimated the man was seven or eight minutes from drowning when his boat reached him.

“That boy, he was close,” Coleman said. “It’s not something you want to do every day. You go from thinking about putting glow lures on the downriggers to ‘man, we got a guy in the water.’”

Coleman said knowing he and his crewmates saved a life more than makes up for a relatively empty fish cooler.

“It’s just a good feeling,” he said. “We were his last hope and we were able to save him.”

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