DELTA COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – The Delta County Sheriff’s Office has awarded a challenge coin to a man who helped rescue three people from the waters of Lake Michigan on July 4, 2021.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Marine Patrol was sent to the area of Lake Michigan, south of the Ford River around 3:20 p.m. on Sunday. They were called by a boater who lost power, and the waves on the lake caused the boat to take on water.
The three people who were in the boat were sent into the lake when the boat overturned. Alan Couillard was nearby and helped get the three people onto his boat and took them to shore. Marine Patrol then arrived, righted the boat, and brought it back to shore as well.
Deputy Adam Flagstadt presented Couillard with a challenge coin and the Delta County Sheriff’s Office would thanked Alan Couillard for his actions.
We spoke with Couillard who owns AC Auto Repair on M-35 in Escanaba by phone on Friday. He shared with us the details of his heroic actions.
“We were out in the lake, floating around and having a good 4th of July. I had noticed their boat. It was quite a ways out, but it just looked suspicious. They had a funny canopy type thing on the front. I don’t know why it caught my suspicion, but I just kept paying attention to it. Maybe 10-15 minutes later I look back again and now the boat’s got a problem. You could tell it was flipped upside down and the nose was poking up out of the water. We were quite a distance away and couldn’t hear anybody screaming. You could see orange buoys which turned out to be life vests floating around.”
That’s when Couillard knew he had to take action. With four people on his pontoon, his wife and two of her cousins, they headed towards the stranded boaters.
“We hollered right away and asked if everyone was okay,” said Couillard. They asked if there was anyone else in the water, which there was not. They pulled everyone out of the water and on to his pontoon. They attempted to tow the boat back as well but Couillard was too heavy. They left it for the Marine Patrol.
“I was glad nobody was hurt. You hate to see tragedy, especially on the 4th of July.”
Couillard says there were no other boats in sight until they had nearly reached shore after the rescue. The three people rescued said their thank you’s and Couillard made his exit after giving his contact information to the Sheriff’s Office.
“I was kind of overwhelmed. It made me feel good. Later that night after we got off the water I was at a 4th of July party at my mother-in-law’s house and I was telling everyone over there, ‘Oh yea, we were heroes today. We saved somebody out on the water.’ So that was kind of neat, being able to help somebody.”
He never expected anything else to come of his actions, but when Deputy Flagstadt showed up to present the challenge coin, Couillard appreciated the moment.
“I didn’t do it for the credit. I was doing it for the safety of the people. I would hope if I was in that situation, somebody would come help also.”
In his 30 years of navigating the waters of Lake Michigan, Couillard said the only other rescue he’s performed was on himself when a jet ski sank. His boating experience and ability to stay calm under pressure helped give this story a happy ending.
“It might have been pretty wavy that day, but for me, it’s no big deal. I can navigate in rough seas with the best of ’em.”