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'You just act': Off-duty police officer helps rescue swimmers at Ludington beach

Lt. Eric Rottman, his wife, sister-in-law and a nearby kite surfer all worked together to rescue the mom and two kids.

LUDINGTON, Mich. — Police officers don't anticipate having to put their lives in harms way on their days off, but a mom and her two sons are thankful that one did.

Eric Rottman had the day off from work on Monday.

"We met my family at the beach," he says.

Rottman, a lieutenant in the Paw Paw Police Department, has been going to Stearns Park in Ludington for years.

But this was a first.

"Saw a lady kind of quickly coming out on the pier, running on the pier, asking a couple of kids that they're alright," he remembers.

A Hudsonville woman was calling out to her two sons, caught in a swell next to the pier.

Rottman didn't think twice.

"I just jumped in," he says. "I was able to get hold of that older child, I was able to start swimming away from the pier with him."

He got the first boy to shore, but when he turned around for the other, the mom jumped in as well.

"She was starting to struggle for sure," he says.

While Rottman helped from the water, his family jumped to action on the pier.

"My sister-in-law had thrown out the two life preserver she had," says Rottman. "I was able to get one underneath one of the lady's arms, gave one to the other child that was still hanging onto her."

Rottman says a kite surfer named Frank Schwartz also joined in on the rescue. Together, they got the mom and both boys to shore safely all before first responders arrived.

"It could have been a tragic outcome," says Ludington Police Chief Chris Jones.

Jones is thankful for the life preservers at the beach, donated a few years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"This is why we have these here," he says. "This is why we take the time to make sure that they're maintained and they're ready to go at all times."

And equally thankful for Rottman quickly taking action.

"To know that people that don't have an investment in this community are still willing to take that risk and put themselves in danger to help someone else that they don't know, from our perspective, we just want to say thank you," says Jones.

Thank you for putting himself in a danger Rottman says he didn't even consider.

"In those moments, you don't always think you just act," says Rottman.

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