Local Residents Assist in Rescuing Conservation Officer

Chassell, Mich. — Department of Natural Resources and
Environment Conservation Officer Dennis Gast was responding on a
snowmobile to a complaint of set lines on Otter Lake near Chassell
in Houghton County last Saturday night when he fell through thin
ice and found himself in eight feet of freezing water. Fortunately,
Gast was able to alert nearby residents to assist him, preventing a
serious situation from taking an even more grave turn.

“Sometimes our officers find themselves in dangerous situations
and settings, such as Officer Gast did while responding to this
complaint,” said Sgt. Steve Burton, DNRE Law Enforcement supervisor
at the Baraga Operations Service Center. “At these times, we
sometimes require help from the public. In this situation, Officer
Gast was lucky that nearby residents heard his shouts for help; or
this incident could have ended very differently.”

After Gast fell through the ice, he struggled to free himself
because of the weight of his uniform and equipment that all
conservation officers carry while on the job. He realized his
attempts to free himself would be difficult due to the poor
condition of the surrounding ice, so he started to shout for help
after noticing activity at a nearby cabin.

Steve Nash, from the Houghton area, was renting a cabin on Otter
Lake, heard Gast’s calls for help and took his snowmobile out to
investigate. Using his coat as a rope, Nash was able to pull Gast
from the water and started to transport him back to his cabin.
Nash’s brother, Russell, of Holland, also at the cabin, watched
from shore. About halfway to the cabin, the snowmobile carrying
Nash and Gast fell through the ice. Russell Nash notified
neighboring homeowners Julie and John Filpus, and the brother and
sister team were able to use a broomstick to pull out Steve Nash
and assist Gast out of the water.

The Filpuses were able to transport Nash and Gast to their cabin
and treated them for moderate hypothermia. The snowmobiles were
recovered the next day by John and Harold Filpus, Steve and Russell
Nash, along with CO Dennis Gast and DNRE Wildlife Technician Brad
Johnson. The snowmobiles were brought to the Baraga High school
small engine repair class and were repaired and returned.

“The DNRE appreciates the assistance of Steve and Russell Nash,
Harold, John and Julie Filpus in coming to the rescue of Officer
Gast. We believe that these individuals saved his life,” Burton
said. “We also want to thank the many people who assisted in the
recovery of the snowmobiles, as well as the Baraga High School
students who assisted in repair of the sleds.”

Categories: Michigan – Bill Parker

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