WALKERVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Troy Van Gelderen heard the call go out Saturday afternoon about a helicopter that crashed in a swampy area of a large federal forest -- and he knew he had to try and help.
Not only did he help, he helped save a man he considers a friend.
Van Gelderen was the first person at the scene in an Oceana County swamp so dense that visibility was less than 50 yards.
The helicopter crashed in Tanner's Swamp, near Walkerville.
Tom Slocum, 49, died in the crash.
"I heard there was a survivor out there and I knew I was going to be able to help," Van Gelderen told 24 Hour News 8.
Matt Williams was on board the helicopter with Slocum and was able to use his phone to call 911 after the crash. That gave rescue crews rough GPS coordinates of the crash site.
Van Gelderen found Williams, 28, clinging to a propeller.
"Matt didn't know what happened. He didn't have any memory of what happened at all."
"I helped him stay up and make sure he didn't go into shock and tried to keep him as comfortable as I could," Van Gelderen said. "I didn't have a whole lot to keep him comfortable after hiking through the swamp and no coat on myself."
Van Gelderen stayed with Williams and held his hand for hours until other rescuers could find them. They had to cut through thick brush and take him to a hospital.
"I made sure he kept looking in my direction and didn't talk too much about it."
Williams remains hospitalized with shoulder fractures and declined to speak with 24 Hour News 8.
"It was horrible. Matt's lucky, but it's still very horrible for Tom and his family," Van Gelderen said. "If he wouldn't have had cellphone coverage, who knows when we would have ever found them? He's just very lucky."
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