Miracle Survival: Police Find Missing Hunter Suffering from Hypothermia Just in Time


Everyone likes a dramatic rescue. Rescues make great movies and novels, and keep us pinned to the page or screen.

Yet I’d bet that most of us would prefer such deliverance to occur in fiction rather than real life. Why? Well, in real life, those rescues involve the very real chance of failure.

A rescue attempt for a missing hunter in Missaukee County, Michigan, on Nov. 17 looked very much as though it could end in a loss of life.

According to Cadillac News, 59-year-old Donald Sokol was one of several people hunting near Merritt, Michigan, a remote northern section of the state. As night began to fall, a terrible realization began to dawn on his hunting party.

Sokol hadn’t returned at the designated time. Worse, a night so pitch black was falling that they had little hope of locating him.

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So Sokol’s friends called 911 and authorities quickly began a hunt of their own, one to save a man’s life from the quickly plummeting temperatures. Over the next few hours, nearly 20 people would join in the search for Sokol.

However, they wouldn’t find him quickly. The Detroit Free Press reported that the Northern Michigan State Police started by canvassing social media, hoping to reach someone who might’ve seen Sokol.

In the end, though, it was a good, old-fashioned, on-the-ground investigation that finally found him. A K-9 unit made contact about 11 p.m. that night.

But there was a problem: Sokol was huddled opposite a large body of water that would chill rescuers to the bone and end their own lives even as they attempted to save him.

In fact, by that time, one of the rescuers had already begun to slip into hypothermia and removed himself from the scene.

Other officers began to wind their way through nearly a mile of frigid wetlands, the only way to get to the stranded hunter. Things would only get more challenging when they actually reached him.

A press release put out by the rescuers said, “Unfortunately, they found Mr. Sokol in an exhausted, dehydrated, and hypothermic state. They began removing wet clothing and built a fire to help warm him there at the scene.”

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According to the WXYZ, Sokol was in such a bad way that he couldn’t walk out on his own. What’s worse, the marshy area was treacherous enough that rescue teams couldn’t carry him out either.

That was when the drama really began. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter soon arrived on the scene.

The aircraft lifted Sokol up in a bucket and sped him to a hospital for treatment. All of the rescuers were later evaluated and released, receiving an “all clear” from doctors.

After securing Sokol, Roscommon District DNR Law Enforcement Divison Lt. Brandon Kieft reminded people, “If you can avoid hunting alone, go with a partner. If you can’t hunt with someone, make sure you can tell someone where you are going to be and be as exact as possible.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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