Deputy injured in accident
Marine officer struck by own boat after knocked into reservoir

Staff Reporter

COLUMBIAVILLE -- A group of water enthusiasts rescued a barely conscious marine deputy Sunday afternoon who was washed out of his boat by a wake, immersed into the Holloway Reservoir and endangered by his circling out of control boat that struck him.
"They rescued him," said Lapeer County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Parks. "If they hadn't reacted as fast as they did, it would have been a far different outcome."
Problems began about 2:10 p.m. as Lapeer County Sheriff's Department deputy Dale Harmon, of the Marine Division, patrolled Buttercup Beach on the Holloway Reservoir in Columbiaville. He was in a stationary position, near the swimming area, said Parks.
"Witnesses said a westbound white and blue Liberator boat, operated by an Otisville man, 26, approached deputy Harmon's boat at a high rate of speed and at the last moment, made a sharp left turn close to his boat," Parks said. "As deputy Harmon prepared to go after the boat, he was knocked into the water by the wake created by the white and blue boat."
Harmon was submerged in the water and his boat continued to circle around him, striking him at least once. That's when a group of water lovers turned into rescuers.
Boaters Eric Grant, his wife Crystal and children, Brennen, 20, and Jordan, 6, all of Columbiaville, motored up to Harmon's vessel. Using smooth motions likened to a stuntman, Eric leaped off his moving boat and boarded Harmon's vessel.
"It was still circling," Crystal said. "We pulled up close to it. He waited for it to come up to just the right spot, jumped on it and shut it down."
As the wave struck Harmon, Justin Hendley, Matthew Holbeck and Neil Sanchez, all of Davison, happened to be launching their boat from shore. Roxanna McCulley, Justin's mother, remained on the beach to care for her grandbaby.
"We watched it happen," McCulley said. "We saw the wave hit him and he went flying. They drove off to help him. At this point the boat was still circling. Justin jumped into the water to help him and he saw the deputy struck by the boat at least twice. They thought for sure the propellor was going to take his head off."
Chris Schmutz, his wife Lisa, and son Joseph, 16, all of Lake Orion, saw the commotion from the beach.
"I reached him with my jet ski," Chris said. "I grabbed him and held him on the edge of it. He was coming in and out of consciousness and it was really difficult. My son Joseph brought over an off-duty police officer. We put a life jacket on him."
The group hoisted Harmon into a pontoon boat operated by Scott Crabb of Swartz Creek and occupied by his wife Erica, and three relatives from Clio. They brought Harmon to Buttercup Beach; he was transported by ambulance to Hurley Medical Center in Flint.
Witnesses pointed out the blue and white boat to Genesee County Park rangers. The boat had returned and was idling in a distance as it watched the rescue, said Parks.
"The rangers motioned for the boat to pull over, but it refused to comply," Parks said. "They yelled and used loud speakers in attempts to bring it to shore."
A passing boat owner allowed one ranger to board his boat for pursuit and he followed the blue and white vessel to a mid point between the Wolverine Campground the Mt. Morris Road bridge. The suspect beached his boat in a hard manner. The Otisville man was arrested and may face charges.
"Witnesses said the same man was operating a boat in a reckless manner the day before," Parks said.
"At this point, I've not yet reviewed the paperwork," said Lapeer County Prosecutor Byron Konschuh. "If he's convicted of reckless or careless operation of a boat, it is a misdemeanor charge. It will allow us to request that the judge order him unable to operate a boat during his probation, which could be up to two years."
Besides Parks, officers who aided Harmon and assisted at the scene are Lapeer County Sheriff's Department deputies Dan Bybee, Jason Davis, Adam Fischhaber, Creig Mantey, Michael White, and Genesse County Park rangers Don Stewart and Roy Smyth.
Harmon is recovering at home from minor injuries. Susan Younger may be reached at (810) 664-0811, Ext. 8122 or