Footprints through frozen swamp lead to runaway teen in UP Michigan

A teenager was rescued by conservation officers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources after fleeing Tuesday afternoon in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

At 4:25 p.m., the Marquette County Central Dispatcher notified local emergency services of a runaway 14-year-old boy who lives along North Marquette County Road 545 in West Branch Township, a announced the DNR on Friday. Authorities are not releasing the boy’s name because he is a minor.

Conservation Officer John Kamps and Trainee Conservation Officer Steve Sajtar were patrolling nearby and immediately began searching the area when they heard the report, according to a Friday news release.

Kamps and Sajtar followed footprints through a frozen swamp south of County Road 545 North and Maplewood Road. They followed the footprints for approximately 650 yards until they encountered a person walking, who confirmed that someone matching the description of the missing teenager had walked east on Maplewood Road approximately three hours earlier.

The footprints continued for over a mile until Maplewood Road came to a dead end.

Officers followed into the swamps surrounding Foster Creek, where the snow was thigh high.

“With sub-zero temperatures and only a few hours of daylight, time was running out,” Sajtar said in the statement. “We knew the boy was probably cold and wet from the swamp.”

At 6:10 p.m., Kamps and Sajtar found the teenager sitting on a snow bank along Foster Creek, wearing only a shirt and pajama bottoms.

The teenager reportedly took off his wet shoes and socks because he fell into the stream. He wrapped his bare feet in his jacket to keep warm.

“I’m freezing,” the teenager told officers. A first aid scan was performed by officers, who noted he had loss of pigmentation and numbness in his feet, the statement said.

Kamps removed his woolen gloves so the teenager could put them on his feet. Confirming he could walk, Sajtar helped the teenager put his shoes back on so they could get out of the woods.

Taking several breaks, officers helped the teenager walk approximately 275 yards to where an ambulance met them, along Foster Creek Drive, west of US Highway 41.

EMS transported the boy to UP Health System in Marquette, where he was treated for cold exposure, according to the DNR.

Kamps has been a conservation officer since 2017 and is tasked with patrolling Marquette County. Sajtar graduated from the 2022 Conservation Officer Recruit School Academy and is training in Marquette County.


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