MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – A Marquette County teenager who was reported missing this week was found and treated at an area hospital following a search by Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers.
According to a DNR release, Marquette County Central Dispatch informed local emergency responders of a missing 14-year-old boy who lives along Marquette County Road 545 North in West Branch Township at approximately 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21.
Conservation Officer John Kamps and probationary Conservation Officer Steve Sajtar were patrolling nearby and began searching the area. The officers located a set of footprints and began tracking them, south of County Road 545 North and Maplewood Road.
The officers followed the footprints until they encountered a person walking, who confirmed a boy who matched the missing teen’s description had walked east on Maplewood Road about three hours earlier.
The footprints continued for over a mile, until Maplewood Road came to a dead end. The officers continued into swampland surrounding Foster Creek, where the snow measured up to the officers’ thighs.
“With below freezing temperatures and only a couple hours of daylight left, time was of the essence,” Sajtar said. “We knew the boy was likely cold and wet from the swamp.”
At 6:10 p.m., Kamps and Sajtar found the boy sitting on a snowbank along Foster Creek, wearing only a shirt and pajama pants. The teen had removed his wet shoes and socks because he had fallen into the creek. He wrapped his bare feet in his jacket in attempt to stay warm, telling the officers he was freezing cold.
A brief first-aid scan was conducted by the officers, who noted the boy had a loss of pigmentation and numbness in his feet.
Kamps removed his wool gloves for the boy to put on his feet. Confirming the boy could walk, Sajtar helped the boy put his shoes back on so they could hike out of the woods.
The officers helped the boy walk to where an ambulance met them, along Foster Creek Drive, west of U.S. Highway 41.
EMS transported the teen to UP Health System in Marquette where he was treated for cold exposure. The boy’s name has not been released due to his status as a minor.
Kamps has been a conservation officer since 2017 and is assigned to patrol Marquette County. Sajtar graduated from the 2022 Conservation Officer Recruit School Academy and is currently training in Marquette County.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state law enforcement officers who receive specialized search and rescue training. Conservation officers provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety, and protect people by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.