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Jogger helps rescue man who jumped into Lake Michigan to save dog

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Updated: February 5, 2014 10:17AM

An amazingly improbable rescue Tuesday night involved a poodle, a rock climber, a cross country skier, dozens of cops and firefighters and a man clinging to life in the icy waters of Lake Michigan just east of Montrose Harbor.

A woman, who was cross country skiing along a remote portion of the lakefront near the Montrose Bird Sanctuary, heard the desperate screams of a man in the lake around 5:15 p.m..

The man’s poodle had fallen through the ice covered water, and he jumped in to try to save it. The man’s two other poodles barked on the shoreline as the woman dialed 911 and tried to guide rescuers to her location, but had trouble explaining where exactly she was.

Moments later, a jogger named Adam Dominik approached the scene and was about to turn around when he spotted the barking dogs, but paused when he heard screams.

Dominik, a novice rock climber leaned over the ledge of a retaining wall and saw the man’s face submerged in the water as he held his dog above the water line. “I ran looking for a branch or something to use to extend to him,” said Dominik. The best he could do was untie a piece of twine that had been strung between two metal posts to keep walkers on a nearby path. Dominik said the man insisted his dog be rescued first.

Dominik lowered the rope to the man, who tied it to his dog, which quickly was pulled to safety. Dominik, who had been practicing tying knots before he left for a jog, then looped one end of the rope around himself and lowered the other to the man in the water. The man secured the rope around his body and Dominik took slow labored steps to pull him out of the water just enough to where he could stand on a ledge a few feet above the waterline.

Police arrived about a minute later and pulled the man the rest of the way to safety. About 12 police officers and firefighters placed the man on a ladder that was used as a makeshift gurney and carried him about a quarter mile over snowy uneven ground, constantly losing their footing along the way, to a waiting ambulance.

The man, who is in his 40s, was taken to Weiss Memorial Hospital with severe hypothermia, but recovered enough Tuesday night to later spend a few minutes in his hospital room with the police officers who helped save his life.

“He’s going to be okay,” said Police Marine Unit Officer Kevin Kelly, who estimated the man was in the water for about 10 minutes. “He was smiling, happy to be alive. It was his birthday today, too,” Kelly said.

The dogs, all poodles, also survived.

After the rescue, Dominik spent time at a climbing wall to calm his nerves.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna watch this guy die. He’s a goner,’” said Dominik late Tuesday.

“I don’t think I have the strength to do that on my own, to hoist a 200 pound man at least seven or eight feet over ground that was super icy and slippery with a just a crappy piece of twine,” said Dominik, a devout Christian who lives in Buena Park with his wife and works as an analyst at Morningstar, an investment research firm.

“I firmly believe that God was there helping me.”

Police returned the victim’s iPhone and car keys, which he shed along with his shoes before jumping into the water.


Twitter: @mitchdudek

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