Chesterton Tribune



Porter Beach heroes honored for Lake Michigan rescue

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Here’s one definition of courage: a power of concentration so narrowly focused on the task at hand as to contract to an irrelevance the horizon of possible consequences.

Like, say, dying a cold death.

Here’s another: an impulsiveness of action so unmediated and unself-conscious as to preempt any calculation of the risks.

Like slipping into a watery grave.

Or just maybe the five persons who imperiled their own lives this past summer at Porter Beach to save three others’ simply have more nerve, and much less self-regard, than most folks do.

On Tuesday the Porter Police Commission honored a pair of officers and a trio of civilians who, at great personal hazard, entered a roiling Lake Michigan to rescue three girls being swept into the open water by a powerful rip current.

The heroes: Officer Martin Gonzalez, Officer Scott Cornelison, and--all three of them young adults not much older than the kids they saved--Eli Muller of Chesterton, Sarah Drexler of Lowell, and Joel Poling of Union Mills.

The incident unfolded late in the afternoon of Saturday, June 27, at 3:42 p.m. Gonzalez was on patrol at the time and in uniform, while Cornelison was off duty and operating his portable surf shop, Sandy Peaks, when a beachgoer saw, some 40 yards off shore and struggling in the two- to four-foot waves, three girls in their early teens.

Alerted, Gonzalez and Cornelison grabbed life preservers and boogie boards from the Sandy Peaks stock and went in.

So did--separately--Muller, Drexler, and Poling.

Sputtering, wearied in a matter of minutes to the bone, hypothermic or nearly so, the five reached the three and, fighting both the panic and the chop, hauled them in and then out of the drink.

“This story does not end in tragedy,” Porter Assistant Police Chief Todd Allen said on Tuesday. “On this afternoon, families were spared the life-changing event of loss and grieving because their loved ones were safe. They were spared because of the heroic efforts of these five individuals.”

“It is without question that their efforts prevented a tragedy,” Allen added. “Their spirit of altruism, each forsaking their own safety for the welfare of others, shall not go unnoticed. The Town of Porter Police Department and Police Commission wish to recognize them for their selflessness and meritorious service to this community.”

Allen then presented to each the department’s Life Saving Award. It was Gonzalez’s second, after he used CPR several years ago to resuscitate a man who’d suffered a heart attack. Drexler, Allen noted, plans to go into law enforcement herself and is currently a reserve officer with the Hebron Police Department. “Her spirit for service is clearly evident,” he said.

Drexler told the Chesterton Tribune after the ceremony that what she mostly recalls from that afternoon is the confusion. “A lot of waves. Windy. And screaming. It was definitely hard to breathe.”

“It was cold,” Poling recollected. “There were a few times I thought I’d be pulled under.”

“I remember a lot of waves,” Muller said. “But I also remember being in the ambulance afterward and the girls just saying Thank you, Thank you.”



Posted 10/8/2015




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