Man hospitalized after Lake St. Clair rescue
Grosse Pointe Farms police officer Geoff McQueen said he wasn’t thinking about himself when he dove into Lake St. Clair’s icy waters Wednesday morning to rescue a man who had fallen in.
“It was cold,” the 20-year veteran of police work said. “But you’re not thinking about yourself. I’m looking at this guy and I could see he was losing consciousness. I have a duty and an obligation to act. I couldn’t just not do anything.”
Police first learned about the man from a motorist who was driving north on Lakeshore and saw him at the water’s edge, said Lt. Richard Rosati.
“He was walking along in the snow,” he said. “When she looked back in her rear-view mirror, he had slipped.”
She called the city’s Public Safety Department at about 8:30 a.m. and dispatchers radioed officers in the area, one of whom was McQueen, police said.
McQueen, 51, said when he arrived at the scene, in the area of Lakeshore and Moran, he couldn’t see anyone in the water immediately.
“I parked my car, got out and got onto the breakwall,” McQueen said. “As soon as I got on it, I could see someone in the water.”
He radioed in that he spotted the victim and began to climb down the embankment toward the man.
“I told him ‘Listen, I’m going to get you out of there,’ ” he said. “He looked at me and then he rolled over.”
McQueen notified dispatchers the man was going under the water.
“I laid down on the ground and tried to get a hold of him and pull him closer to the breakwall,” he said. “He was too far out, so I just pushed myself off the breakwall, headfirst into the water.”
The patrolman didn’t even have time to remove any of his gear, he said. In his career, he never had to dive into freezing water before to rescue someone, he also said.
There was a piece of rebar jutting out of a broken piece of concrete on the embankment, McQueen said.
“I grabbed a piece of rebar to support both of us,” he said. “I tried to keep his head above water so he wouldn’t drown and give him a fighting chance.”
He said he wasn’t too worried about himself. “I knew we had other officers coming,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be in peril.”
Officers Edward Wierszewski and Keith Colombo soon arrived and pulled the victim and McQueen out of the frigid water.
The man, in his 20s, was taken to St. John Hospital for treatment. He was conscious and alert at the time, Rosati said.
McQueen opted to not go to the hospital.
“I immediately got into a patrol car to keep me warm while the others dealt with the victim,” he said. “They wanted me to go to the hospital, but all I wanted to do was get back to the station, get my wet clothes off and get into a shower.”
McQueen said he put on some dry clothes and went back to work.
Later in the day, police spoke to the man and some of his family members at the hospital. Rosati said the man told police he was distraught over some personal problems and at the lake to take his own life.
McQueen was quick to dismiss any praise for being a hero.
“That’s what firefighters and cops do,” he said. “We try to help people. That’s why we choose this career path. The drive is to help someone else. It’s what we do. And that’s what happened.”