Thomas J. Kopke helped to save Jacob I. MacLean from drowning, Grand Marais, Michigan, August 7, 2000. Swimming in Lake Superior, Jacob, 9, and his father encountered a strong current and high waves that prevented them from returning to shore. From a bluff overlooking the lake, Kopke, 44, salesman, saw them and alerted another man who was nearby. Kopke and the other man responded to the beach with a canoe, but their attempts to launch the craft against the breakers were not successful. Having donned life jackets, the other man taking an additional one with him, they then dived into the lake, despite its 54-degree temperature, and swam to Jacob, who was by then at least 300 feet out. Kopke reached Jacob first and supported him until the other man arrived and put the life jacket on him. They then attempted to return to shore but became separated by the rough water. Meanwhile, another man, and his teenage son, entered the water with the canoe for use as a flotation device as they swam to Jacob. Holding onto the canoe, those two rescuers and Jacob swam toward shore, fighting the current and overtaking waves. They discarded the canoe near shore, and the teenage son swam Jacob to wadable water, where they were assisted from the lake, as was the teenager’s father. Kopke and the other man swam with difficulty toward shore and likewise were aided from the water, by others using rope. Jacob, Kopke, and the other rescuers were cold and tired but otherwise uninjured. Jacob’s father drowned.
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