DELTA COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) — The Delta County Sheriff’s Office in the Upper Peninsula has awarded a challenge coin to a man who helped rescue three people from the waters of Lake Michigan this past Fourth of July.
It happened around 3:20 p.m.
Marine Patrol was sent to an area of Lake Michigan south of the Ford River for a boater who had lost power, authorities say.
The boat was taking on water from the waves, they say.
The three people who were in the boat were thrown into the lake when the boat overturned.
Alan Couillard, who owns AC Auto Repair on M-35 in Escanaba, was nearby and helped get the three people onto his boat and took them to shore.
“We were out in the lake, floating around and having a good Fourth of July. I had noticed their boat. It was quite a ways out, but it just looked suspicious,” Couillard told News 8’s sister station WJMN.
“They had a funny canopy type thing on the front. I don’t know why it caught my suspicion, but I just kept paying attention to it. Maybe 10 to 15 minutes later I look back again and now the boat’s got a problem,” he said. “You could tell it was flipped upside down and the nose was poking up out of the water. We were quite a distance away and couldn’t hear anybody screaming. You could see orange buoys which turned out to be life vests floating around.”
That’s when Couillard knew he had to take action and headed that way with his pontoon boat, with his wife and two of her cousins on board.
“We hollered right away and asked if everyone was okay,” said Couillard.
They pulled everyone out of the water and on to his pontoon. They attempted to tow the boat back as well but Couillard said it was too heavy.
Marine Patrol then arrived, righted the boat and brought it back to shore.
“I was glad nobody was hurt. You hate to see tragedy, especially on the Fourth of July,” he said.
Couillard says there were no other boats in sight until they had nearly reached shore after the rescue. The three people rescued said their thank-you’s and Couillard made his exit after giving his contact information to the Sheriff’s Office.
“I was kind of overwhelmed,” Couillard said. “It made me feel good. Later that night after we got off the water I was at a fourth of July party at my mother-in-law’s house and I was telling everyone over there, ‘Oh yea, we were heroes today. We saved somebody out on the water.’ So that was kind of neat, being able to help somebody.”
He never expected anything else to come of his actions, but when deputy Adam Flagstadt showed up to present the challenge coin to thank him for his actions, Couillard appreciated the moment.
“I didn’t do it for the credit. I was doing it for the safety of the people. I would hope if I was in that situation, somebody would come help also,” Couillard said.
In his 30 years of navigating the waters of Lake Michigan, Couillard said the only other rescue he’s performed was on himself when a jet ski sank. His boating experience and ability to stay calm under pressure helped give this story a happy ending.
“It might have been pretty wavy that day, but for me, it’s no big deal. I can navigate in rough seas with the best of ’em.”