Boy’s first fishing trip turns into traumatic boating accident, mother tells story.

May 6, 2017

hamlin_lake_rescue_fire_05-05-17Boy’s first fishing trip turns into traumatic boating accident, mother tells story.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

HAMLIN TOWNSHIP — Cortni Gallegos and her son, Keith, are resting at home today, the day after they spent about 45 minutes in the cold waters of Hamlin Lake Friday afternoon before they were rescued from personnel from Hamlin Township Fire Department.

Cortni, 24, said her co-worker Mike, 41, had been promising to take 7-year-old Keith fishing. They started out about 9 a.m. and the water was calm, Cortni said.

“We fished in the channels until about 1 p.m.,” she said. Keith was starting to get a little impatient because he wasn’t catching fish, she said. So, they decided to head to the South Bayou. “I looked at my phone and it said 1:11 p.m. It was nice and calm. Mike showed Keith how to steer the boat and we had a good ole time. We caught a lot of fish.

“As we started heading to the South Bayou the wind picked up.” Cortni said Mike started to accelerate and the stern dipped down while the bow lifted, causing water to come into the back end of the boat. When the bow came back down the boat was full of water. Things just got bad from there, she said.

The boat was about 100 feet from the shoreline off of Tamarac Village, not too far from the opening of the channel. Mike was attempting to pull the boat to shore, but the boat wasn’t moving. After awhile, they realized that both anchors had fallen off the boat and was keeping it from moving, Cortni said.

“Mike kept trying to pull the boat. I had my arm through my son’s life jacket, through the arm hole so he couldn’t get away from me. I was holding onto the ridges on the bottom of the boat.”

Keith was the only one wearing a life jacket.

“I really tried to stay calm but there were a few times when I would start to panic. I was trying to shield my son from the waves. It would get calm for a minute and that gave me time to think and calm down. Then the water would start getting rocky again.”

About 1:35 p.m., likely after they had been in the water for at least 20 minutes, Cortni saw someone on shore. It was Linda Williams, who had just gotten back to her home in the 2800 block of North Lakeview Street.

“The minute I saw her I started screaming,” Cortni said. “Mike had taken on a lot of water, he kept going under water. I kept trying to reassure him that help was on the way. It felt like it took forever from the time I saw her and the time the boat got there.”

Williams said she happened to look out her window at the lake. “I got home and looked out my window and saw three people in the water hanging on to their boat,” she said. She then immediately called 911. Emergency personnel were dispatched at 1:37 p.m. 

Hamlin Township Fire Capt. Matt Bryant and firefighter/EMT Andy Larr used the department’s boat to rescue the three from the 40-degree water.

The three were taken by ambulance to Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital. Keith was airlifted to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. He was released Saturday morning. Cortni was treated at Ludington hospital and released Friday afternoon. She said she is a little sore today but otherwise doing well. She did not know Mike’s condition. She said he had hypothermia and had an initial body temperature of 86 but it was raised eventually to the mid-90s.

Cortni said she is thankful to the rescuers. “I just want to thank all the people who helped us. Every single one of them, the guys on the boat, the paramedics, the hospital staffs, and Linda who found us.”

Responding to the scene were Hamlin Township Fire Department, Life EMS ambulance and Mason County Sheriff’s Office. An additional ambulance from Oceana EMS was initially called in to assist because there was only one Life EMS ambulance available at the time of the call. 

The case was being investigated by the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Kim Cole said that the final report will be turned over the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office.

Story, photo, and video copyrighted © 2017 by Media Group 31, LLC. No portion may be reproduced in any form, including print and broadcasting, without expressed written consent.

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