Scottville native recognized for rescuing lost snowmobilers in Porcupine Mountains

March 24, 2014
Pictured on the right: Michigan DNR Director Keith Creagh (fourth from left), DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson (second from right) and Natural Resources Commission Chair J.R. Richardson (far right) honored five PRD employees for their exemplary service when aiding in the rescue of two lost snowmobilers in the Upper Peninsula's Porcupine Mountains. Shown here (left to right) are Bill Doan, Jimmy Newkirk, Justin Farley, Creagh, David Merk, Emily Pleiness, Olson and Richardson.Awardees are holding both DNR Director's Awards and special recognition plaques from the office of Gov. Rick Snyder.

Pictured on the right: Michigan DNR Director Keith Creagh (fourth from left), DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson (second from right) and Natural Resources Commission Chair J.R. Richardson (far right) honored five PRD employees for their exemplary service when aiding in the rescue of two lost snowmobilers in the Upper Peninsula’s Porcupine Mountains. Shown here (left to right) are Bill Doan, Jimmy Newkirk, Justin Farley, Creagh, David Merk, Emily Pleiness, Olson and Richardson.Awardees are holding both DNR Director’s Awards and special recognition plaques from the office of Gov. Rick Snyder.

A Scottville native has been recognized for his efforts to rescue two lost snowmobilers in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in January. Michigan Department of Natural Resources ranger Jimmy Newkirk  was among a group of five DNR employees who were part of a rescue effort to save a father and son who had been missing for more than 24 hours after a late January blizzard.

Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh recently recognized the five employees for going above and beyond the call of duty in helping to rescue two snowmobilers who, in late January, had been stranded overnight near the Porcupine Mountains.

Four Porcupine Mountains State Park staff – Justin Farley, David Merk, Jimmy Newkirk and Emily Pleiness – and William Doan, Parks and Recreation’s western U.P. district supervisor, received DNR Director’s Awards from Creagh at the regular monthly meeting of the Natural Resources Commission, held last week in Roscommon.

Upon hearing that father and son snowmobilers from Albertville, Minn., were stranded, the Parks and Recreation group volunteered to head out on snowshoes to search in sub-zero temperatures and blizzard conditions.

The lost pair had weathered overnight temperatures of -15 degrees, and overcast skies and whiteout conditions made an aerial search impossible.

After several hours of off-trail snowshoeing, the searchers made contact with the snowmobilers, who were showing signs of hypothermia but were otherwise conscious and alert.

“This recognition is a tribute to our dedicated personnel in every state park and recreation area throughout Michigan, who are well trained and always prepared to assist in any situation,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson. Each honored employee was nominated for a DNR Director’s Award by his or her supervisor. Director Creagh said, in presenting the awards, that it was a privilege to recognize the staff. Each also received a special recognition plaque from the office of Gov. Rick Snyder.

“We know that DNR employees have a meaningful impact on many of our customers’ lives, but it isn’t often they actually save those lives,” Creagh said. “We are proud to honor these five employees for their exemplary service to the citizens of the state of Michigan.”

The DNR rangers were part of a search and rescue effort coordinated by the Michigan State Police, in partnership with the Michigan Civil Air Patrol, Ontonagon County Sheriff’s Department, Ontonagon County Community Emergency Response Team, Ontonagon County Emergency Manager, U.S. Forest Service, DNR Law Enforcement Division, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard, AmericInn of Silver City, Sled Necks of Wisconsin, Sonco Ambulance, and many other local volunteers.

Jimmy Newkirk grew up in Amber Township and is a graduate of Mason County Central High School. He is the son of Jim and Connie Newkirk. “Naturally we are very proud of him,” said Jim Newkirk.

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