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Hunter disappears in woods Up North, rescued by helicopter

Temperatures were cold and there was potential for a "very large" search area, a release said.
Credit: Michigan State Police
The Michigan State Police and other agencies coordinated the rescue of a 59-year-old missing hunter in Missaukee County on Saturday. The man was found dehydrated and hypothermic.

In a series of tweets, state police detailed the harrowing rescue of a missing hunter, who was found dehydrated and hypothermic in a rural area of Missaukee County on Saturday.

According to a news release, a hunter called Roscommon County Dispatch at about 6:30 p.m. to report that a member of his party hadn't made it back to their designated meeting spot.

Troopers from the Houghton Lake post were dispatched, and the missing man was identified as Donald Edward Sokol, 59, of Ohio.

The Northern Michigan State Police Twitter account shared a photo of Sokol and asked anyone with information to call the Gaylord Area Regional Dispatch Center.

"...last seen in the area of Jeff's Rd and Kelly Rd. He has reportedly been in the woods since daybreak," a tweet said.

Temperatures were cold and there was potential for a "very large" search area, a release said, so the search party expanded to included: seven state troopers, two state police K9 units, a state police sergeant, six Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and two Missaukee deputies.

The troupe searched through difficult terrain and waded through "sometimes chest deep" water, before a state police dog located Sokol at about 11:10 p.m.

However, a release said the dog could only make verbal contact, because he was on the opposite side of a deep waterway they could not safely cross. The dog's handler also began to experience hypothermia symptoms and needed to seek treatment.

A State Police helicopter was dispatched to the scene and maintained a visual on Sokol. According to the release, the chopper directed state police and DNR officers through more than 0.7 miles of wetlands to reach Sokol.

"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," a release said.

A video of their efforts was shared by state police on social media.

Authorities determined Sokol was too weak to walk on his own and the terrain was too difficult to carry him. A release said assistance from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was requested, as troopers and DNR officers continued to render aid.

A Coast Guard helicopter dropped a rescue basket and lifted Sokol to safety. He was flown to Munson Medical center for treatment.

All involved troopers, deputies and officers were evaluated for signs of hypothermia by on-scene EMS and medically cleared. The operation was officially completed by 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, a release said.

"If not for the tenacity of your troopers and the numerous agencies who pitched in to help, this story could have a tragic end," state police tweeted.

Contact Aleanna Siacon at ASiacon@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @AleannaSiacon.

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