MUNISING, Mich. (WJMN) – The four crew members of a 2021 rescue operation at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PRNL) have been awarded by the United States Department of the Interior. Two park rangers from PRNL, Chief Ranger Joe Hughes and Ranger Matthew Nemeth, were recipients of Department of Interior Valor Awards.

The crew’s other members, National Park Service volunteer Lynnea Fredrikson and Michigan State Police Trooper Trever Kirkpatrick-Bray, were awarded Citizen Bravery Awards at a ceremony held in Washington D.C. in September.

The crew was awarded for their actions in a rescue operation for two kayakers caught in gale-force winds along the lakeshore in September 2021. The kayakers, two lower Michigan residents, did not survive the incident.

“Although the two kayakers sadly did not survive, I am very proud of the heroic efforts Joe, Matt, Lynnea, and Trever made to try to rescue them,” said David Horne, park superintendent. “They all represented themselves and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore admirably, with honor, and with courage.”

The National Park Service provided the following photos of Hughes, Nemeth, Fredrikson, and Kirkpatrick-Bray:

The crew searched for the kayakers in the boat “Arrowhead” navigating high winds and 5 to 7 foot waves during the search. In total, the search covered an area of over 516 square miles. 

The National Park Service included the following section of the rangers’ award citation in a release:

“The high level of operational risk during this search and recovery effort was undeniable. To reiterate the point, the U.S. Coast Guard incident log had an entry that noted the Operational Risk Management (ORM) rating for this operation was ‘medium/high with no mitigation possible’. The operational conditions stretched the limits of the Arrowhead crew, but they persevered without hesitation or complaint. While two fatalities were not the desired outcome, this incident underscored the leadership, training, preparation, and courage of the Arrowhead crew.”