LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) - A couple from Chicago visiting western Michigan to
celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary helped rescue an Ohio woman in a
wheelchair who fell into cold Lake Michigan.
Joanne Burkhart, 61, of Rootstown, Ohio, was visiting Ludington’s North
Breakwater Lighthouse around midday Tuesday when her husband let go of her
wheelchair to take a photo, the Ludington Daily News reported. A wind gust
sent Joanne Burkhart and the wheelchair into the water.
According to police Chief Mark Barnett, 68-year-old Walter Burkhart reached
his wife, who was face down in the water, and held her so she could breathe.
Fred Strubin, of Chicago, got into the water to help get her out and his
wife, Debbie, tried to call 911 and ran for help.
“When we came up ... the wheelchair was in the water and he had gotten her
part way out of the water,” Fred Strubin said. “He was still in the water
trying to push her out and she was on a rock except for her legs and she had
a bloody gash on her temple.”
Joanne Burkhart was treated and released at an area hospital, and the
Strubins provided her with comfort before rescue crews arrived, holding her
out of the water and covering her with a jacket. Fred Strubin is a former
firefighter and worried she might go into shock.
“We tried to get her up but she was waterlogged and shivering - I felt so
bad for her because she was so cold and shivering,” he said.
Fire and police from Ludington responded, along with EMS and the U.S. Coast
Guard. The responders transported Joanne Burkhart to a waiting ambulance
while a Ludington police officer helped her husband out of the water.