Photo by Tom Tigani
Former Taylor police Capt. Jeff Turner holds an unlikely vacation souvenir: a copy of the local newspaper detailing the role he and his wife, Sharon, played in the rescue of two Milford children caught in a Lake Michigan riptide in Manistee.
By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
A day at the beach turned out to be anything but for former Taylor police Capt. Jeff Turner and two children from Milford.
He and his wife, Sharon, were walking along First Street Beach next to Lake Michigan in Manistee the morning of Aug. 25 when they saw someone alongside the pier with 4- to 6-foot waves crashing against a breakwater of slippery boulders at the pier’s base.
Turner, who has been retired from the Taylor force for about seven years, said it didn’t quite register at first, but then kicked off his shoes “real quick” and turned to Sharon and said, “We’ve got to help them.”
He ran out along the pier and laid down on it in order to reach down and grab 14-year-old Victoria Behnke and pull her up off the rocks and out of the waves. Sharon went and flagged down a couple who had just pulled into the parking lot and had them call 911.
Victoria had been out swimming in shallower water when she got caught by a riptide and pulled about 100 yards out from shore, Manistee police said. Turner said it was a “pretty nasty day, “ with winds of about 30 mph kicking up the waves.
Kathy Behnke, the children’s mother, had been shielding herself from the wind and was reading a book while they were out swimming, he said, but when she saw him running out to grab Victoria, she quickly came to help and asked where her son was. Joseph Behnke was about 200 yards further out, almost to the lighthouse at the end of the pier, Turner said.
Joseph was floating and not fighting the waves and managing to keep his head above water. He told a local television reporter afterward that at first he was angry at his sister for losing track of him, then hoped it was a dream and eventually just started praying.
A U.S. Coast Guard station is nearby, and rescuers reached Joseph within 15 minutes after getting the call — no small achievement on such rough water, officials said. They also said Joseph was going under when they reached him about 300 yards offshore and 35 feet off the breakwater.
Keeping the boat steady was a challenge, local Coast Guard personnel said, but added that fortunately they had been doing a lot of recent training with local departments and emergency medical responders for just such a situation.
Good timing seemed to be the order of the day; the Turners regularly vacation in the area and had just arrived at a local motel near the beach and were trying out a new metal detector when they spotted Victoria.
“We never found anything,” he said of his metal detection effort. “But fortunately we were out there to see (the children in the water) and help out.”
The Behnke children were taken to a local hospital shortly after the incident and checked out fine, local authorities said. The family stopped by the Turners’ motel the following day to thank them again and gave them a package of fudge and some copies of the local newspaper containing the story about the rescue.