Four Michigan DNR Conservation Officers Honored for Lifesaving Efforts

Four Michigan DNR conservation officers' lifesaving efforts were recognized at January's meeting of the Natural Resources Commission. Shown here (L to R) are officers Richard Cardenas, Kenneth Kovach, Isaac Tyson and Greg Patten.
Four Michigan DNR conservation officers’ lifesaving efforts were recognized at January’s meeting of the Natural Resources Commission. Shown here (L to R) are officers Richard Cardenas, Kenneth Kovach, Isaac Tyson and Greg Patten.
Michigan DNR
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan-( The work of Michigan conservation officers often includes events and circumstances outside of natural resources law enforcement, education and outreach. Recently, the Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division bestowed Lifesaving Awards to four officers who were instrumental in resolving potentially fatal situations. The awards were given at last week’s regular meeting of the Natural Resources Commission in Lansing.

In October 2016, Conservation Officer Ken Kovach of St. Clair County was the first to respond to a report of a self-inflicted, accidental gunshot wound at a residence in Wales Township. The victim, who was shot through the arm when his pistol fell out of its holster, was lying on the lawn, bleeding and in poor condition when Officer Kovach arrived. The officer immediately applied a tourniquet and stopped the bleeding until emergency medical personnel arrived.

Conservation Officer Greg Patten of Muskegon County responded to a February 2016 emergency dispatch about someone having fallen through the ice on Black Lake. Officer Patten found the victim in the water up to his chest clinging to the ice, reported it, and then donned his snowmobile flotation coat and proceeded onto the ice. He tossed the man a rescue rope, instructed him to put it around this body, and kept tension on the line, keeping him from falling below the surface of the water until other responders could help him pull the victim to safety.

Conservation Officer Isaac Tyson of Branch County was on a joint patrol with a Branch County marine deputy in July 2016 when they received a call about an unconscious man facedown in the water. By the time the pair arrived on the scene, the man was sitting in a boat and appeared fit. About an hour later, however, the officers heard screams from the same area, stating that the man had fallen unconscious in the boat. Tyson climbed into the boat, found the man unresponsive, and, assisted by bystanders, carried the subject into the patrol boat. During transport, the victim stopped breathing. Officer Tyson began CPR and, when the victim was lifted to a dock, the officer discovered the man had an obstructed airway. Once the airway was cleared, the man began breathing.

Conservation Officer Richard Cardenas of Barry County responded to an October 2016 call about a suicidal subject who had told his mother he planned to jump off the MacArthur Bridge into the Detroit River. Officer Cardenas spotted the subject’s vehicle and saw the man pull over, exit the vehicle, climb over the railing, and jump. The officer immediately radioed dispatch and then climbed the railing to spot the man struggling in the water and calling for help. Officer Cardenas retrieved a rescue device, threw it to the man who was sinking, pulled on the line to bring him back to the surface, and then instructed the man in how to secure the device to keep himself afloat. Officer Cardenas held the line in place to keep the man in a position that allowed him to breathe until a Detroit Harbormaster vessel could reach him.
DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler, who presented the awards at the NRC meeting, praised the officers for their calm, decisive action in life-or-death situations.

“These officers used their training and their professional skills to save lives that might otherwise have been lost,” Hagler said. “I’m sure we’ll all join in congratulating these public servants for their demonstrated dedication and swift action on behalf of Michigan citizens.”

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more about their work at the DNR website