MARQUETTE - Area residents and police officers have been recognized by the Marquette County Law Enforcement Administrators Association for their efforts to save a 34-year-old Negaunee woman whose vehicle rolled off Marquette County Road 480 and was submerged in a creek in December.
"It is truly a special day here in Marquette County, but it's not unusual," Marquette County Sheriff Mike Lovelace said during the award ceremony that took place Wednesday morning in Marquette City Hall. "It's not unusual because people in the Upper Peninsula have always worked together."
Sheriff's Deputy Torin Tredeau, Marquette City Police Cpl. Jim Finkbeiner and Chocolay Township police officers Jon LeGally and Anthony Carrick all received Life Saving Awards, while brothers Klaye and Scott Olson of Gwinn, Aaron Beckman of Ishpeming and Chris Graham Jr. of Negaunee received Outstanding Citizen Awards.
From left, Marquette County Sheriff Mike Lovelace congratulates Chris Graham Jr. of Negaunee, Scott Olson of Gwinn, Aaron Beckman of Ishpeming and Klaye Olson of Gwinn, for their efforts Dec. 16 to save a Negaunee woman from a vehicle submerged in a creek along Marquette County Road 480. The men received Outstanding Citizens Awards Wednesday morning. Four police officers also received Life Saving Awards for their success in pulling Cora Longtine, 34, from her vehicle. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"Sometimes, you hear just the negative things about our job a lot of the time, so to be recognized for something that helped somebody, obviously it means a lot," Finkbeiner said. "And to have as many people here, not just family members, but other people who came here, to see that, it makes you feel pretty good about what you do. It kind of reinforces your faith in what we're doing."
Tredeau was the first officer to arrive on the scene Dec. 16, and said when he saw Cora Longtine's 2004 Honda CRV in the creek, he knew the situation was serious.
"I was worried when I saw how deep it was in the water, how we were going to be able to get her out," Tredeau said. "I just ran into the water and took what I had to try to punch the window out."
However, because the vehicle's windows were underwater, Tredeau and Finkbeiner were unable to generate enough force to smash out the glass.
It was the two Chocolay police officers, Carrick and LeGally, who were able to break the window and with the help of the other officers on the scene, pull Longtine to safety.
Though the wreck happened in the middle of December, and the car crashed through two inches of ice, according to Carrick, none of the officers thought twice about jumping in.
In fact, Carrick said he couldn't even feel the frigid temperature of the water until Longtine was pulled to safety and the adrenaline rush was over.
"(I didn't feel cold) at first, but once it was all done, I couldn't catch my breath," he said.
LeGally said the team had to remove chunks of ice from around the vehicle to reach the victim.
All four officers earned their first Life Saving Award Wednesday.
Tredeau, who has been a sheriff's deputy for five years, said he felt "very honored."
"I don't know how else to say it," he said. "I did what I was supposed to do, and it's very humbling to be awarded."
But it wasn't just police officers who helped save Longtine's life that December day.
"I was driving and I just caught a glimpse of the headlights, so then we turned around and jumped out to do what we could do," Scott Olson, 19, said.
Olson was driving on County Road 480 with his brother Klaye, 17 and friend Beckman, 18, when they saw the headlights.
He said he called emergency services while Beckman and Klaye Olson ran into the water. But the men couldn't break the vehicle's windows open. They flagged down Graham, who was driving by the scene.
Beckman said as he ran into the icy water he was only thinking of "trying to get her out of there at all costs."
Their awards read, in part, "Your awareness, quick thinking and willingness to aid someone in need without regard for your personal safety resulted in the driver of a submerged vehicle being pulled to safety. Had it not been for your actions, the outcome would have been much different. It's because of citizens like you that Marquette County remains a desirable place to live."
Though the men said they were grateful to be given the award, if given the chance, they would have done it all over again without any recognition.
"It's awesome, but either way, we would have done it," Klaye Olson said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.