EAST TAWAS – A day at the beach almost ended in tragedy for two men who were visiting Tawas Point State Park in East Tawas. Their near-drowning deaths were prevented, though, due to the quick reactions of some good samaritans and the lifesaving measures they performed.
Michigan State Police (MSP) personnel advise that upon being rescued, Oryan Solaka, 24, New Baltimore, and his cousin Adeeson Solaka, 18, Sterling Heights, were taken to the hospital and are expected to make a full recovery.
According to an MSP press release, troopers from the West Branch Post were dispatched to the beach area of Tawas Point State Park on Memorial Day, May 30, for reported drownings in Lake Huron. The troopers and a sergeant, in addition to officers from the Tawas City Police Department (TCPD) and East Tawas Police Department (ETPD), were on scene within minutes of being dispatched.
Upon arrival, it was discovered that good samaritans had removed both persons from the water and were in the process of performing lifesaving measures. One victim had been recovered on the surface of the water and the other had been submerged and was pulled from the bottom.
The MSP states that one of the men did not have a pulse and CPR was being performed. The efforts were successful and both men were placed into the recovery position. Iosco County EMS arrived and transported them to the hospital for treatment.
The MSP relayed family members to the hospital, where both subjects were awake and talking.
Tawney Stitt, Louisville, Ky., shared an eyewitness account of the situation, for which three of her loved ones – who are also military veterans – are being credited for the rescues.
Stitt reported that she and her husband were on vacation visiting her family from St. Helen, and they all went to the state park for the day to visit the beach.
Their leisurely outing turned into an alarming situation, however, but fast to respond were Stitt’s husband, Navy veteran Dean Stitt, 29, Louisville, Ky.; her father Glen Hubbard, 51, St. Helen, an Army veteran; and her brother Corey Hubbard, 30, St. Helen, an Air Force veteran.
“They jumped in the water and ended up performing CPR on the two males who were unresponsive,” Stitt recalled in part.
As for the location, “It’s the spot on the beach in Tawas State Park that goes right into a drop off and then reaches shallow water further out,” she stated.
Stitt added that her family was initially further down the beach but, by chance, moved to the other spot because their children wanted to play in that area.
She also shared a post her brother made detailing the event, in which Corey stated that his brother-in-law, Dean, spotted a man unconscious floating near him, and another man on the lake bottom.
“He yelled at me to get the other guy on the bottom of the lagoon while he dragged the one that was floating upside down in. I dove in and found him a good ways out and drug his lifeless body to shore while barely keeping my head above the surface myself,” Corey described.
“Dean gave CPR to his guy, revived him, then came over and helped the guy I pulled in who wasn’t wanting to come back,” Corey continued. “Scariest situation I have ever really been in.”
He expressed that he was very proud of Dean. He also wrote that his father, Glen, was giving CPR at one point, as well, and that his mother, Theresa Hubbard, was also helping the whole time.
“The two guys are alive because of Dean,” Corey stated. “Hats off to Dean for how he handled the situation and staying calm.”
MSP Spl./Lt. Kimberly Vetter, Public Information Officer for the Third District Headquarters, confirmed that Oryan and Adeeson were unconscious, not breathing and needed CPR. Further, one of them was essentially dead and had no pulse.
Vetter also provided information from MSP Sgt. Frank Siemenski, regarding the investigation.
She said that the area in which the men were swimming used to be retaining ponds but, since the water level has risen so much, the ponds have basically become the shoreline.
As has been reported, there are some steep drop-offs in the water surrounding Tawas Point. An 8-year-old girl from Saginaw lost her life last year when she was swimming with her sister at a location where the water dropped to a depth of about 20 feet, before shallowing to two to three feet about 75 yards offshore.
As for this latest incident, neither of the men were strong swimmers, Vetter says. They were initially in water that was only about up to their thighs, tossing a ball around. But the water was over their heads in no time, and there was an immediate struggle.
The investigation indicates that Adeeson went down first and, when he did, he grabbed Oryan who also went under.
Vetter described it as a chaotic scene, during which Dean swam out, grabbed Oryan and began pulling him in. He had a hold of his ankle, so Dean yelled that he needed help.
Vetter said that the four witnesses – Dean, Corey, Theresa and Glen – all rendered aid which saved the men’s lives, and it’s lucky for Oryan and Adeeson that these good samaritans were paying attention.
The MSP was assisted by the TCPD, ETPD, a park employee from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, members of U.S. Coast Guard Station Tawas and Iosco County Central Dispatch.
On behalf of the department, Lt. Mike Brown, assistant commander of the West Branch Post, stated that the MSP is grateful to the numerous good samaritans at the scene who entered the water, recovered the victims and performed lifesaving measures prior to the arrival of first responders.