Michigan Man Drowns in River Trying to Save Dog Despite Collective Emergency Responder and Community Efforts

Drawbridge over Thunder BayDrawbridge over Thunder Bay
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After attempting to retrieve his fiancée's dog, a Michigan man slipped on wet rocks and fell into the river, resulting in his death.

Michigan emergency responders joined efforts to recover the body of a man who went into the Thunder Bay River on Sunday, according to authorities.

According to local outlet The Alpena News, a man was recovered after what police have called an accidental drowning.

A little before 1 p.m. on Sunday, first responders received a call after the man — whose name is not currently being released — entered the water to help his fiancée retrieve her dog, according to local outlet The Alpena News.

Police found the 36-year-old man at the bottom of the river in about 20 feet of water and about 20 feet offshore, according to local reports.

Bystanders at the scene said the man slipped on wet rocks along the river before falling into the water and disappearing under the surface, according to a joint news release from the Alpena Fire Department and Alpena Police Department.

Alpena Fire Chief Bill Forbush told Inside Edition Digital that multiple emergency responders and bystanders were involved in the rescue attempt, including the Alpena Fire Department, Alpena Police Department, Alpena County Sheriff’s Office, Alpena County Emergency Management Team, Michigan State Police, Victim Services, and U.S. Coast Guard members.

According to The Alpena News, Forbush said despite these efforts, the water rescue equipment available to firefighters was designed for surface-level emergencies, rendering it inadequate to help them with the deep-water rescue.

Several Alpena Fire Department officers in cold-water rescue suits attempted to dive to the river’s bottom, but they couldn’t swim that deep without dive equipment, he continued. 

Forbush told The Alpena news that by 2 p.m., because of the length of time the man had been underwater, the search for the man was declared a recovery operation instead of a rescue. By 2:30 p.m. the man’s body was recovered by two dive team deputies from the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office.

Luckily, the man’s fiancée and her dog did made it out safely, Forbush shared with Inside Edition Digital. 

While the outcome was tragic, Forbush praised the collective efforts between the emergency services and the community. “The cooperation of this run was absolutely incredible,” he said. 

He mentioned that nearby pastor Joe Collins, who had been in the parking lot of the close-by Shoreline Wesleyan Church, rushed over to help comfort people in support of Victim Services.

“The community really came together on it tremendously. While it's a shame that the outcome was not what we would have hoped for, the rescue plan worked well.” Forbush said.

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