RECOGNITION – Jace Lear, 18, Tawas City, helped rescue a family that was involved in a crash, during which their vehicle flipped over in a swampy area and they were submerged in water. A senior at Tawas Area High School, Lear is shown in this photo after the district gifted him with a quilt of Valor for his act of heroism.

TAWAS CITY – Jace Lear, 18, Tawas City, is being recognized as a hero after assisting three individuals who were involved in a vehicle crash earlier this month.

Following the incident, the Tawas Area High School senior was presented with a quilt of Valor from the district, for his act of heroism.

His father, John Zanti, expressed his pride in Lear in a recent Facebook post, stating that his son saved a young family’s life on March 9.

The family went off the road on US-23 in AuSable Township, near Smith Street, with the vehicle flipping end over end and landing in a swampy area.

“The car was upside-down submerged in water. I caught a glimpse of a faint light and heard the horn,” Zanti recalls. “We quickly stopped and Jace and I ran toward the car across the swamp.”

Zanti states that he broke through the ice, up to his waist.  Lear kept breaking through, as well, but did not give up. He made it to the car and first grabbed the 3-year-old child who was inside, then brought the baby back to Zanti.

“He then helped me with the baby out of the ice. Jace then went back and helped the Mom and Dad out,” Zanti continued in his post. “The family was completely under water and drenched. We put them in my heated truck and wrapped them in blankets until the police and Ambulance arrived.”

Zanti remarked that he still cannot wrap his head around the events leading up to Lear being in the right place at the right time.

According to Zanti, he and his son were driving back from Lear’s basketball game in Alcona, when Zanti missed the road behind the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base to take the Old US-23 route, as he always does.

Zanti stated that he hit the brakes to turn around and Lear mentioned going to the nearby Taco Bell, so they continued in that direction. Upon waiting a bit, Lear said he was tired so the two got back on the road.

Zanti wrote that they left the drive thru line one car before ordering – about five minutes later, Lear was pulling the family from the water. “God is good!”

Personnel from the Oscoda Township Police Department, which responded to the scene, confirmed that the vehicle was upside down in about four feet of water.

While Iosco County EMS was also on hand, authorities note that all of the involved parties denied treatment.

Talk of Lear’s actions that night began spreading quickly in the community. Zanti has since noted that those from Taco Bell in Oscoda sent gift certificates to Lear, to ensure he gets his meal.

Zanti’s Facebook post has continued to circulate far and wide, as well. At press time, it had received more than 3,700 “likes” and had been shared more than 2,500 times.

Following the event, Zanti and Lear have also communicated with Chantel Hendricks – one of the individuals who was in the vehicle which overturned – in addition to other family members.

“Thank you so much for helping us out of the accident!” Hendricks expressed, in response to Zanti’s post. “My family and I are remarkably blessed to have walked away alive and that wouldn’t have been possible without you and your family.”

In a message to Zanti, Marilyn Hendricks stated that he and Lear saved her daughter and granddaughter’s life on March 9.

Hendricks referred to Lear as a very fine young man and someone to be proud of. She added that, while some may believe he was there at the right time, she feels that God put him there to save the lives of her loved ones.

Hendricks thanked both of the men from the bottom of her heart, and stated that Lear will always be in her thoughts and prayers.

Along with the recognition he has received, the event may have also been a sign that Lear is on the right career path. Zanti says his son not only co-ops for the sheriff’s department, but has also been accepted to Ferris State University, where he will be studying criminal justice.

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