Lake Michigan Ice Rescue: DNR Officer Saves Shoeless Boy, 10

A Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer rescued a shoeless 10-year-old boy who had crossed a busy highway and walked out onto the Lake Michigan ice Sunday afternoon.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Patrick Hartsig. Photo from Michigan DNR.

According to a press release, Officer Patrick Hartsig had been working snowmobile patrol when he received a call about the boy who had run away from his family around 4 p.m. Sunday, crossed four lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 2 near Gladstone, in Delta County, and walked out on the ice about a mile from shore.

The boy's name has not been released.

Hartsig had been working snowmobile patrol in adjacent Alger County, the DNR said.

"On my way home, I heard a call on Delta dispatch of a runaway special needs boy that was somewhere south of Gladstone, on the ice on Little Bay de Noc," Hartsig said in the press release. "I checked in with dispatch as I was near Hunter's Point [on the bay] and launched my sled."

Temperatures were in the teens and the wind was blowing 25 to 30 mph.

"With Conservation Officer Hartsig being out there on a regular basis, he had up-to-date accurate knowledge of potential bad ice areas," said Lt. Eugene "Skip" Hagy, a district law supervisor with the DNR Law Enforcement Division's district 2, which covers the easternmost six counties in the Upper Peninsula. "Normally, there is a shipping channel open in this area, but he knew it hadn't been used in a few weeks, which allowed a more direct response."

It wasn't long before Hartsig located the boy.

"I found him with no shoes on, wandering around about a mile away from shore," Hartsig said. "There was no one around him. There was one old ice shack. No one was in it."

The boy was wearing jeans, a shirt and a jacket, but had no hat or gloves and his stocking feet were wet and cold.

"He was crying, he was scared," Hartsig said. "I asked him where he was going and he said he didn't know. He said his feet hurt."

Hartsig, who is a first aid instructor and former paramedic, took off the boy's socks and warmed his feet. He then put his own boots, gloves and snowmobile helmet on the child.

Hartsig sat the boy in front of him on the snowmobile and the two sped across the ice to the Michigan State Police post in Gladstone. There, the boy's mother, a county sheriff's deputy and an ambulance were waiting.

"Pat's quick response, while having the right tools, training, and local knowledge of his work area, turned a bad situation around before it could get worse," said Sgt. Jerrold Fitzgibbon, who oversees conservation officers, including Hartsig, in Alger, Delta and Schoolcraft counties. "This could easily have ended poorly for the boy had Pat not been there and located him as quickly as he did."

Hartsig was hired by the DNR about two years ago. He has patrolled Delta County since. He is originally from Romeo, located in Macomb County.

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