On the afternoon of Saturday, June 16, 2012, boatcrews from Coast Guard Station Belle Isle, in Detroit, were just finishing a routine five-hour patrol on Lake Erie. The weather was humid and the sun was shining brightly, inviting boaters and swimmers to take a dip in the lake. At about 6 p.m., the search-and-rescue alarm sounded throughout the station, just a short time after the crew docked the boat. Over the public announcement system came a report of a man in distress in the water near the North Pier.
Even though he had only been on a few emergency cases involving disabled vessels, Tyler Komisar, a seaman at Station Belle Isle, quickly responded to the alarm and boarded a 25-foot Response Boat-Small and prepared for the search.
Break-in crewmember Komisar — at the time, only assigned to the station for two and a half months — was not alone in the rescue. Coxswain of the RB-S, Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Chegin, along with rescue crewmembers Petty Officer 2nd Class Bradley McKenzie, Seaman Robert Hohman and break-in crewmember Auxiliarist Mike Taylor, all took part in the rescue.
The rescue boatcrew located the man in distress in less than five minutes.
While approaching the man, the crew of the RB-S watched his head disappear under the water several times.
“When I saw his head go underwater, I had an extremely bad feeling, and lots of thoughts went through my head,” said Komisar.
Chegin maneuvered the boat into position and Komisar threw a life ring to the man.
The man was able to grab hold of the life ring and the crew pulled him to the boat. From the coxswain-seat window, Chegin was able to grab the man in the water and direct him to the rear deck. Hohman, Taylor and Komisar were ready to pull him aboard and Hohman began assessing his medical condition.
While every search-and-rescue case presents unique challenges, the seasoned members of this crew were able to take past lessons learned and apply them to this case.
For Komisar, this was a rescue he will never forget.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that, because of the crew and I, that man is alive today,” Komisar said.
“As we pulled the man out of the water, he kept thanking us,” said Komisar. “On the way to the station with the man, I realized I just helped save a life.”
“I was able to help save a life because of all the training I learned in boot camp and the training we do here at Belle Isle,” Komisar said, “We practice retrieving people from the water every week.”
Coast Guard boatcrews have many different missions — from law enforcement to protecting marine life — but the main mission is responding to those in peril on our nation’s waters.
“Saving someone’s life was a big deal for me,” said Komisar. “I realized all the hard work and training I have done paid off. Saving lives is not an easy job, but it is a great job for the people … who are passionate about it.”