Conservation officers honored at Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting

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Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Three conservation officers were honored at the Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting on November 10.

According to the Michigan MNR, the department recognized conservation officers Tyler Sabuda, Andrea Erratt and the retired corporal. Ivan Pérez.

Conservation Officer Tyler Sabuda received the Distinguished Service Award after risking his life to save the driver of a car submerged in the Au Sable River.

On July 13, Constable Sabuda received a call regarding a fully submerged car in the Au Sable River near the Cooke Dam at Oscoda. The driver, Joseph Sand, 82, from Davison was stuck inside.

Michigan DNR says the water temperature was 72 degrees and the air temperature was 69 degrees. At the location just below Cooke Dam, the river is approximately 230 feet wide and has a rapid current.

Sand and Rodney Weinzierl, 70, of Millington, were visiting nearby Sand’s property and had stopped at the boat launch at the Lower Cooke Dam, where Weinzierl came out to smoke a cigar. He says Sand was turning the car around and sort of got stuck in the river.

Officer Sabuda arrived at the scene at around 4:19 p.m. and when he reached the water’s edge he could see the red car completely submerged in six feet of water about 125 feet downstream of the launch and about 50 feet from the edge of the river. .

A passerby told him that Sand was in the car and that no one had attempted to enter the water yet.

Constable Sabuda removed his uniform for a water rescue. Shortly thereafter, Greg Alexander, an officer with the Oscoda Township Police Department, arrived at the scene and also prepared to enter the water.

Constable Sabuda entered the river with his MRN-issued inflatable life jacket and a window punch. As he approached the car, he could see Sand in the driver’s seat with his seat belt fastened and the driver’s window down.

Fighting the current, Agent Sabuda forced the door to partially open, but the current continued to close the door on his body as he attempted to pull Sand out of the car. Officer Alexander then arrived and was able to hold the door open so Sabuda could dive underwater and remove Sand from the car.

Officers Sabuda and Alexander put the lifejacket on Sand and began swimming against the current towards shore. They received the help of an individual in a kayak to return to shore.

As Officer Sabuda approached dry land, he ordered a firefighter to retrieve his automated external defibrillator from his patrol truck. When Constable Sabuda arrived ashore, Danny Gallahar, an officer with the Oscoda Township Police Department, handed Sabuda his AED.

Officer Gallahar began CPR on Sand while Officer Sabuda prepared Sand for treatment with the AED. The AED advised no shock, so Agent Sabuda ran to his patrol truck, grabbed his Ambu bag, and returned to provide rescue breaths while Agent Gallahar gave chest compressions.

The AED then again advised no shock. At around 4:33 p.m., paramedics arrived and took Sand to a local hospital in Tawas town. Sand was pronounced dead at 5:06 p.m.

“Sabuda selflessly put his life in danger, in an attempt to save another, without hesitation,” said Chief Gary Hagler, MNR Law Enforcement Division. “Sabuda suffered many cuts and bruises due to the harsh environment of the riverbed and the rapid current. If the outcome of the events was unfortunate, that does not change the exemplary courage shown by Sabuda.

Conservation Officer Andrea Erratt received the 2019 Shikar Safari Office of the Year Award, which is the highest honor bestowed annually by the Law Enforcement Division of MNR.

Erratt began his career as a conservation officer in November 1997.

The Michigan DNR said in his first month, Constable Erratt made 25 arrests for offenses including weapons loaded in cars, illegal deer, unlabeled deer and traps and two drunk drivers .

Constable Erratt patrolled for nearly 10 years each in Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties. She is currently posted to County Antrim.

During his career, Constable Erratt has helped resolve various infractions on behalf of Michigan DNR and the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

This includes: fish, game, snowmobile, marine, ORVs, illegal burning, wood theft, litter and illegal waste disposal.

Some of his accomplishments include:

  • Raised over $ 22,000 in reimbursements due to game arrests, including cases of illegal license fees for bull and cow, deer, trumpeter swan, bobcat, mink, otter and non-residents.
  • Obtained a grant from International Wildlife Crimestoppers, Inc. for a new mechanical deer lure and additional funding from the Charlevoix Rod and Gun Club.
  • Preparation of 14 briefs for legal action, ranging from unregistered snowmobiles and illegal burns to illegal hanging of deer and fish.
  • Obtained a 2020 Professional Citation for participating in an investigation into the victims of a hunter that resulted in a conviction for manslaughter.
  • She has located more than 90 individuals with illegal blinds and tree stands, which she found while patrolling state land on foot.

“Erratt is an exemplary conservation officer and conducts herself with the highest level of professionalism, which makes her a role model in the community and for other officers,” said Chief Gary Hagler, Enforcement Division of MRN law. “Her enthusiasm and dedication to resources and her team make her an exceptional gamekeeper. “

Retired Cpl Ivan Perez received the 2020 Shikar Safari Officer of the Year award.

According to the Michigan MNR, Cpl. Perez is a Texas native who grew up hunting and fishing and wanted to pursue a career as a conservation officer.

He enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and was stationed at the United States Coast Guard station Saginaw River, where he encountered conservation officers who moored their boats at the same dock.

In 1995, Cpl. Perez became a conservation officer and was posted to Ottawa County.

During his 26-year career, Perez has been involved in numerous investigations and prosecutions. These include boating-related deaths, undercover work to stop the spread of an invasive species in Michigan, and several major trophy deer and turkey investigations.

In 2019, Perez was promoted to Marine Specialist Corporal in the Recreational Safety Education and Enforcement section of the Law Enforcement Division. He was the first person to be placed in the new position.

Michigan DNR says in a year, Cpl. Perez investigated 10 permanent boat checks, or special rules for boating, and 10 temporary local boat controls, which required extensive communication and data collection.

Cpl. Perez also researched local boating events and contacted event coordinators to ensure the presence and participation of conservation officers.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Cpl. Perez has helped establish online boating safety courses for many state and federal entities, so more people can enjoy the outdoors safely.

“Perez’s success can be attributed to his ability to create positive and lasting relationships within his community and local municipalities, including local, state and federal officials,” said Chief Gary Hagler, Division of MRN law enforcement.

To learn more about Michigan conservation officers and what they do, click here.

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