State police sergeant at IM post cited for rescue
LANSING — A Michigan State Police sergeant at the Iron Mountain post has been honored for his role in helping rescue two Vulcan teens who got into trouble while tubing on the Sturgeon River last June.
Sgt. John Flitton received the MSP Bravery Award from MSP Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue during a special ceremony Thursday in Lansing, “for his diligence and perseverance under uncommon circumstances and for going beyond what is typically expected of law enforcement officers.”
On June 27, Flitton and Sgt. Marc Pomroy, a conservation officer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, responded to a 911 report of two teenage girls stranded on a downed tree in the Sturgeon River, about 40 feet from shore.
They found the teens clinging to the tree, both too weak and the current too strong in the rain-swollen river to attempt to reach the shore, according to the MSP account.
Flitton donned an inflatable life vest and safety rope, then waded into the chest-deep water with a second safety line, as Pomroy manned both lines on shore to ensure no one got swept away.
Flitton was able to attach a safety line to one of the teens so Pomroy could pull her to shore but had his own safety line stripped off in the fast-moving river.
He still was able to fasten a safety rope to the second teen, getting her to shore as well before having Pomroy throw another line to him so he could finally climb out of the river, according to MSP.
Medical personnel on site found the two teens, ages 16 and 17, to be in good enough condition, other than mild hypothermia from the cold water, they could be released to one teen’s mother.
According to news accounts at the time, the teens told authorities were tubing on the river near Foster City Road about 3 p.m. when they became entangled in debris at the river’s edge and unable to get out.
One teen lost her tube, but they were able to use a cell phone to call for help, according to those accounts.
MSP credited the teens with not panicking and working with rescuers despite being “in fear for their safety.”
The rescue came just two weeks after 17-year-old Bryan Stanchina of Norway drowned in the Menominee River on June 13 after he was swept away while trying to assist another swimmer in distress. The two teens attended the same high school as Stanchina.
In this case, “The actions taken by Sgt. Pomroy and Sgt. Flitton resulted in the safe recovery of both victims. With exhaustion and early onset of hypothermia, this incident could have very well ended with tragedy,” the MSP stated in its press release. “This is another fine example of multiple agencies working in conjunction to keep the citizens of Michigan safe.”
Flitton enlisted with the MSP in 1995, graduating with the 112th Recruit School. He has served at the Iron Mountain post and Eighth District Home Security Team. He was promoted to sergeant at the Stephenson post, transferred to the Gladstone post, then later returned to Iron Mountain.
He and his wife, Connie, live in Norway and have two children, John and Amanda.